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Release: Nov. 22, 2002

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Martial-arts spectacle meets Chinese-jazz fusion music in “Voice of the Dragon” at 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 10 and 11, in the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium.

“Voice of the Dragon” is the brainchild of Fred Ho -- hand-to-hand stealth-combat specialist, saxophonist, composer and leader of the adventurous Afro Asian Music Ensemble.

Former Iowa City Council member Karen Kubby will moderate “How Political Values Shape Artistic Work: A Discussion with Fred Ho,” a free event at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9, at Riverside Theatre, 213 N. Gilbert, co-sponsored by Hancher, Riverside Theatre and FAIR!

“Voice of the Dragon” has been called, “a pioneering, groundbreaking, revolutionary multicultural work in a never before-seen explosive combination and fusion of dance and movement forms with pyrotechnical Chinese martial arts.”

Through music, theater and virtuoso martial arts, “Voice of the Dragon” tells the story of Gar Man Jang, a young girl raised at the Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Kung Fu.

She becomes a traitor to the Shaolin monks, and while sacking the temple in the service of the Manchu emperor she discovers the Shaolin Secret Scrolls, the accumulated knowledge of all martial arts. In absorbing the scroll’s deadly power, she becomes invincible, but the price of invincibility is the terrifying transgender metamorphosis of Gar Man Jang from a human woman to a man of supernatural destructive force.

Five Shaolin monks manage to escape the destruction of the temple, and they embark upon a 20-year adventure in which they innovate new forms of martial arts and create new schools based on these forms. After many years, they reunite in a hidden marsh fortress to plot a mighty insurrection against the empire and take revenge upon their deadly traitor in a climactic battle.

This dramatic and supernatural tale of loyalty and betrayal is performed to what Jennifer Dunning of the New York Times called, “one of the best dance scores to be heard in these parts in recent times,” performed by Ho and his Afro Asian Ensemble.

Larry Birnbaum wrote in downbeat magazine, “Fred Ho’s style is a genre onto itself, a pioneering fusion of free-jazz and traditional Chinese music that manages to combine truculence and delicacy with such natural ease that it sounds positively organic,” and Neil Tesser states, “Ho is a musical and sociological descendant of Charles Mingus; his compositions have a slashing energy.”

Robert Hambretch wrote for EAR magazine, “Fred Ho and the Afro Asian Ensemble offer live jazz as it hasn’t been seen in 30 years while introducing Asian touches that define another side of this talented and many faceted group. The range of musical directions Ho and company use and their smoothness, sincerity and undisputed talent make them a live event that should not be missed.”

Founded in the summer of 1982, the band took its name from the Afro-Asian Unity Conference held in 1955: Representatives of newly independent countries und national-liberation movements from Asia and Africa sought an independent political path for their countries. This historic gathering included Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, India’s Nehru, Chou En-lai of China, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and others prominent leaders.

Ho identified with the struggles for self-determination, self-reliance and social transformation of national-liberation struggles in the Third World and thus took this name for his ensemble. The Afro Asian Music Ensemble subsequently produced the first jazz recordings in history that used Chinese vocals and extended compositions for western and Chinese instruments with jazz.

Among Ho’s many honors and grants have been a National Endowment for the Arts Music Composition Fellowship, the Duke Ellington Distinguished Artist Lifetime Achievement Award from the Black Musicians Conference, several ASCAP Composers Awards and involvement in the Meet the Composer program for the last two decades.

Kay Bernau is the sponsor of the “Voice of the Dragon” performances, with media support from the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

Tickets for “Voice of the Dragon” are $35, $33 and $30 ($28 and $10 for UI students; $28, $26.40 and $24 for senior citizens; and half price for those 17 and younger).

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher’s website:< >.

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: <>.

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