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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 1, 2006

Choreographer McKayle Visits UI Dance Department As Ida Beam Professor

Legendary African-American dancer and choreographer Donald McKayle, who has created more than 70 dances and performed with the Martha Graham Dance Company, Merce Cunningham, Anna Sokolow and Charles Wiedman, will be an Ida Beam Distinguished Professor in the University of Iowa Dance Department Sept. 11-22.

In addition to setting his most famous work, "Games" (1951), on UI dancers, who will perform it Nov. 3 and 4 in the UI Dance Gala in Hancher Auditorium, McKayle will be accessible to the wider university community and the public in a series of free events.

McKayle will discuss his autobiography, "Transcending Boundaries: My Dancing Life," and the creation of "Games" at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11, in Room 348 of the Iowa Memorial Union. Dance faculty members Eloy Barragan and Rebekah Kowal will moderate. Barragan is the project director of the McKayle residency.

Kowal and Barragan will again moderate when McKayle participates in a round table about the cultural and artistic impact of his work, at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12, in IMU 348. Co-sponsoring UI departments are American Studies, African American Studies, History and English.

The film "Heartbeats of a Dance Maker" will be screened at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, in IMU 348. The film, narrated by Della Reese, depicts how McKayle overcame segregation and racism to establish his dance career. When he began in 1948, segregation was legal, and artists of color were often refused work. McKayle was able to transcend these racial and cultural boundaries to create a body of work that reflects faith in the human spirit and belief in the redeeming quality of love.

McKayle will be interviewed for television at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22, in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library.

And an informal showing of "Games," previewing the fully produced Dance Gala performances in November, will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22 in Room E203 of Halsey Hall, the headquarters of the Dance Department. "Games" juxtaposes the innocent imaginings of urban children at play with the real dangers they face.

"Games" is unusual among dance works because it includes no instrumental music. Songs from the rich heritage of oral transmission in both the rural and metropolitan communities of the United States accompany the dance movement and are performed a cappella by the cast.

Recognized as a modern dance classic, "Games" is in the repertories of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, the Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Ballet Hispanico, Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, Dallas Black Dance Theatre and other companies.

Tickets are available now for the Dance Gala performances, through the Hancher Auditorium box office, 319-335-1160 or

During the six decades of his dance career, McKayle been honored with five Tony nominations, an Outer Critics Circle award, the NAACP Image Award -- an Emmy nomination, a Drama Logue Award, the Capezio Award, the Dance Magazine Award, the Dance Heritage Coalition named him "One of America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures", and he has been presented with a medal as a Master of African American Choreography at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. 

At the University of California, Irvine, he is the Claire Trevor Professor in Dance, where he has received the students' Outstanding Professor Award and the UCI Medal, the university's highest honor.  He has also served on the faculties of the American Dance Festival, the Juilliard School, Bennington College, Bard College and Sarah Lawrence College, Jacob's Pillow, the Martha Graham School, and he was dean of the School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts.

The reconstruction of "Games" was made possible by a $10,000 grant from American Masterpieces: Dance, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, which is administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts with Dance/USA.

The UI established the Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program in 1978-79 based on a bequest from Ida Beam of Vinton, Iowa, who willed her family farm to the UI Foundation. The proceeds from the farm's sale enabled the UI to establish a fund that brings top scholars in a variety of fields to the university for lectures and discussions.

The Dance Department is an academic unit of the UI Division of Performing Arts in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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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,

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