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University of Iowa News Release


March 27, 2007

Dance Alumnus Poulson Returns As Guest Artist In March 29-31 Thesis Concert

Joe Poulson, an alumnus of the University of Iowa Dance Department, appears to be one of the busiest dancers in New York City, performing with numerous companies and also participating in collaborative projects. "Scheduling is a nightmare," he says. But he has found time in his hectic itinerary to return to the UI as a guest artist in the Jenna Riegel/Sarah Perry thesis concert, "Redirect," at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, March 29-31, in the Space/Place Theatre of UI North Hall.

Poulson will dance with Riegel in David Dorfman's duet, "Planting," which was made possible through a grant from the Zeta Phi Eta Memorial Scholarship Fund for the Performing Arts, administered through the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.

"Working with Joe and David has been incredibly inspiring and challenging and also a lot of fun," Riegel says. "I am in awe when I watch Joe take David's movement phrases and play with them and mold them, imbuing them with a unique 'Joe-ness.' It is a skill both Joe and David have encouraged me to explore more of and it adds a freshness to the material that is extremely invigorating."

Poulson was a student in the Dance Department from 1995 to 1999, and he calls the late David Berkey "a sort of dance dad to me while I was a student... I remember having close interactions with all the faculty who were here at the time. They were extremely supportive and challenging."

When he headed to New York after graduation he had no specific prospects but, like many young performers who land there, he started the rounds of professional auditions for companies and productions.

"I had gotten in touch with a new friend that had just moved there and she let me crash on her floor while I searched for a sublet and job, and auditioned," he explains. "I auditioned for a ridiculous number of things -- I was curious, and was going about it very light-hearted. One audition was for a Madonna tour where these guys were crawling on the floor and lunging on top of the judge's tables and trying to work some psychosexual Jedi mind trickery to get the job. Meanwhile I was a complete mess and doing some type of interpretive tree dance while this was going on.

"Oddly enough, the very next audition I went to I got the job and in that piece there is a moment that I had to stand there as if I were a tree. It was for Mark Morris's masterwork called "L'Allegro, il Moderato ed il Penseroso." It's a gorgeous work but I did get to act like a tree and later a dog with an over-active bladder. There is lovely dancing in between."

Since then Poulson has hooked up with a variety of prominent artists and companies, including the Susan Marshall Company, Creach/Co., Bill Young and Dancers, Jeanine Durning and, since 2001, with David Dorfman Dance. He has also worked with many other choreographers in New York, including Alexandra Beller, Gerald Casel, fellow UI product Lar Lubovitch, Melinda Ring and Peter Schmitz.

He says that one of the elements of the UI Dance Department that has made it possible to work successfully with such a variety of artists is the UI's rich opportunity for performance. "One of the great things about this department is plenty of productions each year. I don't recall the number of productions I was in, but I do remember seeking out all of the possibilities to perform.

"My first teacher, graduate student Rani Welch, was this ambitious, creatively bold young woman with a charming Southern accent who had just begun challenging herself to create a body of work and wanted to start a dance company in Iowa City with me and a few other students. I remember feeling excited and exhausted as we were performing in her works in addition to the departmental productions. It was at one of her shows that I performed my first piece of choreography.

"Along with Rani's company and the departmental works, another opportunity for performing came along when Charlotte Adams arrived here as a faculty member and asked a few of us to perform in her company work. So much performing here in Iowa City -- it was an enormously informative element of my education."

Poulson met Dorfman at the American Dance Festival the summer before he moved to New York, but Dorfman was not looking from another dancer at the time. But since he entered the company in 2001, Poulson has been a fixture.

He met Riegel last fall when he was at the UI assisting Bill Young in the creation of his piece for the Dance Gala. "She expressed interest in performing with me as a part of her thesis concert," he explains. "She said she had met David Dorfman at the American Dance Festival last summer and he was going to choreograph the piece. Since I work with David, think she's a great dancer and thought it would be nice to come back and teach a couple classes, I said 'Yes.'"

The connection was fortuitous, because Poulson is at home with Dorfman's style and creative method. "I think most of David's works are, on one level, about an extreme physical challenge for his performers," he explains. "This work provides nothing less. He is also a great facilitator of people and their ideas and he's open to trying both the familiar and the new. He's committed to a collaborative process with his dancers.

"On a couple of the pieces we have made together he had really challenged us to generate a lot of the movement and develop duets that were showcased within the piece. On a couple of residencies we have been on, he has handed over the reins to a few structural ideas as well. I have found that process to be a fulfilling one and a challenge. There is always an element of surprise and celebration."

Dorfman, the recipient of a 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship, has also been honored with four fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, three New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships, an American Choreographer's Award, the first Paul Taylor Fellowship from The Yard, and a New York Dance & Performance Award ("Bessie") for David Dorfman Dance's community-based project Familiar Movements (The Family Project).

Dorfman's choreography has been produced at the BAM Next Wave Festival, the Joyce Theater, the Kitchen, the Dance Theater Workshop, the Duke on 42nd Street, Danspace Project/St. Mark's Church, P.S. 122 and Dancing in the Streets.

Tickets to "Redirect" are $12 (UI student $6; Free admission for children under 12).

Tickets may be purchased in advance from the University Box Office in the Iowa Memorial Union. In addition to window sales at the Iowa Memorial Union, the University Box Office may be reached by phone at 319-335-3041 or toll-free 800-346-4401. The fax number is 319-335-3407. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday. In addition to cash and checks, the University Box Office accepts MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover cards.

Any remaining tickets will be on sale at the door.

North Hall is located at the north end of Madison Street on the UI campus. It is accessible from both Madison Street and the Anne Cleary Walk. Parking is available in the North Campus Parking Ramp.

The Dance Department and the School of Music are units of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

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; cell: 310-430-1013;