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Release: Sept. 14, 2001

Ballet Folklorico de Mexico to honor late founder Oct. 3

The Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, the international ambassador of Mexico's rich and diverse cultural heritage, will honor its late founder, Amalia Hernandez, in a performance at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3 in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

The performance, for which tickets are now on sale, will feature a new dance, "Sugar Harvest in Tamaulipas," and new choreography for "Carnival in Tlaxcala" by Amalia Hernandez's daughters, Artistic Director Norma Lopez and Viviana Hernandez, director of the company's school.

The visit of the company to Iowa City, after many year's absence, will also include a sold out Oct. 4 matinee performance for school groups, the first event in Hancher's 2001-2002 Stage Door series.

The Hancher performances are part of a commemorative 21-city U.S. tour that pays homage to Amalia Hernandez, the critically-acclaimed dancer and choreographer who died in November 2000 at the age of 83. Hernandez founded the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico in 1952, but it was in 1961 that the company rocketed to the international fame it has sustained ever since.

That year the company won First Prize at the Paris Festival of Nations and attracted the interest of impresario Sol Hurok. Now, in her honor, the company is touring as the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez.

The Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez is a celebration of life in movement, music and color. Its many dances encompass Pre-Hispanic rituals, dramatic events from Mexico's past, and colorful depictions of Mexico's diverse culture and folklore.

Drawing from the rich and varied repertoire of Amalia Hernandez, Latin America's most important choreographer, the selection of dances for the company's 49th anniversary season emphasizes brilliant theatricality and great passion.

"Sugar Harvest in Tamaulipas" is based on fertility and harvest folkloric dances that originated in Tamaulipas, a state in Mexico's sugar-cane region. The opening dance, "Picota," leads the people from the village to a dance named "Fertility." The young men in their "Dance of the Harvest" imitate the cutting of the cane. Once the harvest is over, the time comes for celebrating with the "Dance of the Rope" and "Huapango."

Hernandez's daughters also re-choreographed the vibrant and dynamic "Carnival in Tlaxcala" as a tribute to their mother, who choreographed the colorful dance 16 years ago. "Tlaxcala" reflects the influences popular culture and musical styles have on traditional folklore of Mexico, showing a constantly changing mix of the new and the old.

The costumes dramatically symbolize this idea with their bizarre combination of Spanish, English and Indian components. The story in this dance focuses on the legend of a notorious seducer of women whose life takes him to hell. The sections include "The Dance of the Umbrellas," "The Waltz of Love," "The Dance of the Snake," "The Tango of Seduction," "Bullfighters and Picador," "The Dance of the Ribbons," "The Dance of the Knives," "The Funeral Dance" and the "Tlaxcala Jota."

Amalia Hernandez observed, "Mexico's culture is a concentration of the world's art. . . It's like drops of European and African blood were added to the Indian blood. . . The Indian masks of Oaxaca satirize the Europeans from the court of Maximillian. . . The dancers of Tlaxaca now mime rock 'n' roll."

Between the time of the Olmec Indians and the birth of modern Mexico, more than 30 distinct cultures have flourished. In recent centuries the amalgamation has included Spanish, French and Dutch colonists, African slaves and the inescapable influences from north of the border.

Hernandez provided for the continuity of her company's leadership and standards, and Ballet Folklorico de Mexico remains under the direct leadership of her family, including not only her daughters Norma Lopez and Viviana Hernandez, but also grandson Salvador Lopez, who is the company's executive director. Together, the family produced the last 10 years of international tours and productions at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.

According to Adam Friedson and Julio Solorzano-Foppa, producers of the United States tour for the past 14 years, "The company has never been in better shape. We are privileged to continue our tradition of bringing to the United States the magic, color and history of Mexico through one of the greatest dance companies in the world. The extraordinary creative legacy of Amalia Hernandez and her family will continue at the highest level.

"Throughout its 49-year history, Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez has swept audiences away with its exceptional repertoire of work incorporating decades of history through art. We are distinctly pleased to present this year's company, which, under the direction of Ms. Hernandez's family, preserves the traditions of its past melded with the glory of the future."

This year marks the 14th consecutive year that Friedson Enterprises and Julio Solorzano-Foppa are producing the United States tour of Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez. They are also producers of the company's educational series, a program they created with Amalia Hernandez and Columba Bush 13 years ago, which is now being expanded to Mexico with her support.

American Honda Motor Corp. Inc. is celebrating its 12th anniversary as the Founding National Title Sponsor of Ballet Folklorico de Mexico's U.S. tour. TELMEX is celebrating its ninth year as a sponsor of performances for children.

Country Bancorporation and Kay Bernau are local sponsors of the performance, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets are $32.50, $29 and $25. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 2 and 3 tickets available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 or younger are half price.

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 site on the World Wide Web: <http://www.uiowa.edu/hancher>.

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: <hancherboxoffice@uiowa.edu>.

To learn more about company, visit < http://www.balletfolkloricotours.com/> on the World Wide Web. For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit <www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa>. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <deborah-thumma@uiowa.edu>.