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University of Iowa News Release

March 26, 2004

Paul Taylor Dance Company Celebrates Golden Anniversary With Hancher-Commissioned 'Dante Variations'

The University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium will help to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Paul Taylor Dance Company with the Iowa-commissioned "Dante Variations" at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 16 and 17. Other Paul Taylor works receiving their Iowa premieres on the identical programs will be "Mercuric Tidings," set to symphonic music by Schubert; and "Promethean Fire," set to music by J.S. Bach.

Taylor has been called "the world's greatest choreographer" (Time magazine), and his company has performed many times in Hancher Auditorium, including a commissioned work in Hancher's 1999-2000 Millennium Festival. So it was only natural that the UI should play a prominent role in the 50th-anniversary celebration of the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Coincidentally, Wallace Chappell, who was the director of Hancher at the time of the Millennium Festival commission, has just become the executive director of the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

"Dante Variations," set to music by Gyorgi Ligeti, reflects a line from Canto III of Dante's "Inferno" about those in limbo: "These are the nearly soulless whose lives concluded neither blame nor praise"

"It has to do with all different kinds of restrictions on people, but it's in no way political," Taylor told the San Jose Mercury News before the March 24 world premiere.

The "Dante Variations" project was funded in an innovative way that makes this commission a true community event. Longtime Hancher supporter Peggy Scholz provided 1/3 of the funding, and another 1/3 came from the National Endowment for the Arts. To cover the remaining cost, Hancher sold "shares" in this commission for $250 each, so that many dance lovers in Iowa will bring the curtain down on the Hancher season by witnessing their "own" piece of the growing Taylor legend.

"Wall Street was at a low ebb when we generated this idea," explains Judith Hurtig, Hancher's artistic director. "We decided that at a time when putting money in the stock market was chancy, a new dance by Paul Taylor was a sure-fire investment."

The shareholders -- there are more than 80 -- will be invited to an open rehearsal of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and they will celebrate the new work with the company at a reception after the April 17 performance.

"Promethean Fire" joined the Taylor repertory two years ago, and was widely viewed as Taylor's chilling response to 9/11. Calling the work "a Paul Taylor milestone," London-based critic Allen Robertson wrote, "A culmination of a lifetime's work, 'Promethean Fire' is nothing less than an illustration of why modern dance was invented in the first place.

"Through its movement -- cascading tidal waves of dance throbbing with power and statuesque splendour -- Taylor's choreography conveys deep emotional truths which words could never render. Immense and glorious, 'Promethean Fire' is filled with an absolute sense of inevitability. Each radiant moment shines with a perfect simplicity and immediacy."

"Mercuric Tidings" from 1982 is a "glorious outburst of kinetic excitement," according to Robert Gottlieb of the New York Observer. "From the first moment, they're in perpetual motion, happily blasting through space, responding to Taylor's genius for knowing how to get dancers on and off the stage and into and out of remarkable combinations. . . . The dancers, all lucky 13 of them, never let up: So much is going on, at such high speed and for so long, that by the end, it's YOU who's left gasping for breath."

Jennifer Dunning wrote in the New York Times, "Taylor is the most musical of choreographers and this physicalization of Schubert symphonic scores is both sumptuous and incisive. The 13 dancers seem to drive and animate the music as much as it does them."

Taylor has been a dominant force in dance for four decades, winning accolades as a choreographer who combines athleticism, humor and passion with a distinctive personality -- a combination that has led more than one critic to describe him as the greatest living choreographer.

He is the recipient of more than 40 awards including French knighthood, three Guggenheim Fellowships and six honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees. Awards for his lifetime achievement include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (often called the "genius grant") and the Kennedy Center Honors "for enhancing the lives of people around the world and enriching the culture of our nation." In February of 1989 Taylor was elected one of 10 honorary members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He received an Emmy Award in 1992 for "Speaking in Tongues," produced by WNET/New York in 1991. In 1993 he was awarded a National Medal of Arts by President Clinton in a ceremony at the White House.

Taylor's autobiography, "Private Domain," was nominated by the National Book Critics Circle as the most distinguished biography of 1987.

His Paul Taylor Dance Company has performed his choreography in more than 400 cities in more than 60 nations. It has represented the United States at arts festivals in more than 40 countries and has completed 11 tours sponsored by the United States Department of State.

"Arabesque" was the work commissioned by Hancher for its 1999-2000 Millennium Festival, which was the most extensive and ambitious performing-arts millennium celebration in the United States. Within a year of its Hancher performance, the Kennedy Center News in Washington, D.C., proclaimed, "'Arabesque' ...has already joined the ranks of Taylor classics."

Tickets for the April 16 and 17 performances of the Paul Taylor Dance Company are $40/38/35; UI student $32/12; senior citizen $32/30.40/28; youth $20/19/17.50.

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:

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail,

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,

PHOTOS are available at

OTHER INFORMATION FOR THE MEDIA: Wallace Chappell can be reached directly at For comments about the "shares" that were sold to raise funds for the commission, contact Judith Hurtig, 319-335-1136) and/or Charles Swanson, 319-335-1133).