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Release: March 22, 2001

A YEAR AFTER THE MILLENNIUM (FESTIVAL)

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company ‘You Walk?’ continues to run

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company presented the world premiere of "You Walk?" at the University of Iowa on March 24-25, 2000, as part of Hancher’s 1999-2000 Millennium Festival, which was the nation’s most ambitious and extensive
performing-arts millennium celebration, and a year later the globetrotting production is still running.

This spring, "You Walk?" has performances in Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Georgia, North Carolina, Maine, Ohio and Virginia, following extensive touring that included the Olympic Arts Festival in Sydney, Australia; Bologna, Italy; Lincoln Center Festival 2000 in New York; and the International Istanbul Music Festival.

The impetus for "You Walk?" was a commission by Arena del Sole in Bologna, Italy, the European Union Cultural Capitol for the year 2000. Because the festival was dedicated to Mediterranean culture, Jones was asked to create a work illustrating the influence of the Mediterranean on the New World. In response to that challenge, Jones spent months researching music, visiting Latin America and experimenting with movement.

"You Walk?" takes its name from the epic poem "Omeros," by Nobel Prize-winning Caribbean poet Derrick Walcott. The poem draws its themes from many African-American slave songs and stories that express the dream of returning to some "original" home.

The idea of the journey, quest or migration became the inspiration for Jones’ choreography, beginning with both the movement and metaphorical possibilities of walking, and expanding into a suite of abstract movement. The actual creation of the dance with his company coincided with performances of Jones’ solo concert, "The Breathing Show," which had its world premiere in Hancher in the fall of 1999, also as part of the Millennium Festival.

Jane Vranish of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that with the "brilliantly executed" production of "You Walk?" Jones posed " a deceptively simple and open-ended question for a major work that was pregnant with possibilities. In the end, Jones didn’t answer everything. He didn’t have to -- because the audience found the answers within themselves." Jones, she concluded, "has become larger than life, a luminous phenomenon of a human being."

Blair Tindall wrote for the Contra Costa Times, "Transformation is an enduring theme in art, but rarely does it achieve the transcendence of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s performance of Jones’ ‘You Walk?.’ . . . In an explosion of creative energy, Jones left his audience with a work so complex that no one viewer will ever understand it all. And no two will ever see it the same way -- it is a unique, personal audience experience."

Even Octavio Roca of the San Francisco Chronicle, who thought the ambitions of
"You Walk?" didn’t coalesce, wrote: "When Bill T. Jones is inspired, his dances are sublime. Even when he isn’t, however, the results are often interesting. ‘You Walk?’’ is interesting."

Jones attracted both fame and controversy for a series of dance/theater works that unflinchingly confronted issues of race, sexual orientation, religious faith and disease. Several of these works, including "The Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land" and "Still/Here," were co-commissioned by and performed in Hancher.

Hancher is now working with Jones on a new commissioning project, including the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Hancher will present the world premiere during the 2001-2002 season. The project is described as a group of "chamber works" with live music.

Jones has come to be recognized as one of the most important artists of his generation. In 1994 Jones was honored with a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," and among his many other honors are National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, "Bessie" Awards and the Dance Magazine Award. In 1995 he published the memoir "Last Night on Earth."

In addition to creating work for his own Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, which he founded with his late partner, Jones has received commissions from modern and ballet companies, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Boston Ballet, Lyon Opera Ballet (to which he was appointed Resident Choreographer in 1994), and Berlin Opera Ballet.

Hancher’s season-spanning Millennium Festival featured more than 20 major commissions in music, theater and dance, with most of the commissioned works and productions receiving their world or American premieres in Hancher.

In addition to "You Walk?" new works were created by artists including theater visionary Robert Lepage; choreographers Twyla Tharp, Ushio Amagatsu, UI alumnus Lar Lubovitch, Susan Marshall, Paul Taylor, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; and composers Richard Danielpour, Michael Daugherty, Paul Schoenfield and UI alumnus David Lang.

Performances of the commissioned works involved prominent ensembles including American Ballet Theatre, Twyla Tharp Dance, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Bang on a Can, the Kronos Quartet, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Sankai Juku, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, the Ahn Trio and the Ethos Percussion Group.

The Hancher co-commission of "You Walk?" was supported by Gerald J. and Sandra C. Eskin through the University of Iowa Foundation, and by grant funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition to Arena del Sole, co-commissioners include the Lincoln Center Festival, the National Dance Project, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival and Whitebird Productions.

For UI arts information, visit this new address -- www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa -- on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <deborah-thumma@uiowa.edu>.