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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 17, 2004

ICN Connects Iowa Classrooms With Joffrey Ballet 'Nutcracker'

Elementary-school students in 16 Iowa school districts gained insight into ballet and the Joffrey Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" in a Dec. 10 event on the Iowa Communications Network (ICN), originating the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium.

In addition to the remote sites, where students were able to interact with the artists in real time, the event was attended by a live audience of 500 students from Grant Wood and Lemme elementary schools in Iowa City.

Students gathered in ICN classrooms in Algona, North Tama, Muscatine, Harmony, Farmington, Waukee, Marion, Fairfield, Independence, LuVerne, Sidney, Newell-Fonda, Ottumwa, Baxter, Alburnett and West Des Moines.

Following a summer-long developmental residency, "The Nutcracker" premiered on Dec. 10, 1987, billed as "Iowa's Holiday Gift to the Nation." The magical production -- made possible by donations from hundreds of Iowa individuals and businesses -- was an immediate hit with both audiences and the critics who converged on Iowa City from around the nation, and it has become an annual mainstay of the Joffrey Ballet repertory, at home in Chicago's Auditorium Theatre and on tour.

At the premiere and in several return engagements, more than 250 Iowa children have been featured with the Joffrey Ballet in "The Nutcracker," including more than 70 young dancers this season.

Robert Joffrey's "Nutcracker" was produced in the spirit of the original ballet created by Marius Petipa, which premiered Dec. 18, 1892, at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. However, Joffrey's inspiration also came from his personal collection of Victorian-era toys and his desire to create a "Nutcracker" ballet that expressed the festivity and ambience of a Victorian-era Christmas in America -- a departure from the European setting and traditions in all previous "Nutcracker" ballets.

Co-commissioning "The Nutcracker" and hosting its world premiere was the result of a deepening relationship between the UI and the Joffrey Ballet that began in 1974, when a touring initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts enabled Hancher Auditorium to present the company for the first time.

Hancher's first commissioning project -- James Kudelka's "The Heart of the Matter," -- was premiered by the Joffrey Ballet in Hancher as part of the 1985 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Iowa Center for the Arts. That project launched Hancher into an era of artistic entrepreneurship that has brought the auditorium a worldwide reputation as a creative center.

The extensive Joffrey/Iowa partnership -- totaling nearly 80 performances by Joffrey companies in Hancher alone -- is best-known for two large-scale Hancher-commissioned productions that were both artistic successes and important elements of the Joffrey's survival through tough financial times: The second was "Billboards" in 1993, America's first full-length rock ballet, featuring music by Prince and movement by four contemporary choreographers.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,