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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 24, 2003

Cloud Gate's 'Cursive' Celebrates Dance Anniversary Nov. 12

The University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium will help the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, founded and directed by UI Writers' Workshop alumnus Lin Hwai-Min, celebrate its 30th anniversary with a performance of the UI-commissioned "Cursive" -- an exploration of the connections between dance and Chinese calligraphy -- at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Lin conceived the germ of "Cursive" 20 years ago -- the fact that both calligraphy and dance are based on gestures with symbolic meaning, in which much is left to individual interpretation -- so that the new work is the culmination of many years of thought and creativity. The audience will be invited to stay after the concert to discuss the work with Lin.

Lin says "Dancers try to say something when they move, but what they're saying is ambiguous, uncertain. The Chinese have a metaphor for calligraphy that alludes to this. They call calligraphy a dancing phoenix -- something beautiful, even if you don't understand it."

Lin graduated from the Writers' Workshop in 1971, and he received his first modern dance training at the UI. Since founding Cloud Gate in 1973, naming the company after one of the oldest known dances in China, he has been recognized as one of the most important cultural figures in Asia. In addition to his innovations in dance, he is also a best-selling author in Taiwan.

In 1983, Jaycees International named Lin one of the 10 outstanding young people in the world, and this year Taiwan's leading magazine, Common Wealth, designated him one of the most influential figures of the last 200 years of Taiwan's history. The South China Morning Post has called him "one of the greats of the 20th century."

New York Times' veteran critic Jack Anderson, reviewing a performance at the American Dance Festival, described "Cursive" as "theatrical magic":

"Just as skilled calligraphers can make their brushes seem to dance on a page, so the stage became a page for the dancers. The production demonstrated that both dance and calligraphy abound with energy. As dancers traced designs in space, projections of calligraphic images floated across screens. Much of the time the dancers moved within rectangles of light on the floor. Watching them was like turning pages or unrolling a scroll," Anderson wrote.

"Throughout 'Cursive' the dancers gave the impression that they were luxuriating in the sheer joy of movement. . . . 'Cursive' affirmed the glory of beauty itself."

A Chicago Sun-Times review by Hedy Weiss proclaimed, "The nineteen dancers of the Cloud Gate company possess a control and articulation that verge on the superhuman."

And, reviewing a performance at the Melbourne International Arts Festival, Australian critic Jill Sykes wrote, "Artistic director and choreographer Lin Hwai-min writes about it:'I am always fascinated by the way ink flows on rice paper. Tender and fluid, it creates rich shadings, from intense black to misty white. I hope "Cursive" conveys the rich dynamics of dancing characters in calligraphy and the serene and intense power of the empty space on the white paper.' Incredibly, amazingly, so fluently that it has an air of unreality, 'Cursive' does just this."

In conjunction with the performance, Hancher designer Ron McClellen has mounted an exhibition in the Hancher lobby that features the dramatic calligraphy of Chinese artist Gao Yuan. He is a poet and the author of the book "Born Red," a personal account of being a teenager in China during the Cultural Revolution and the Red Guard movement of 1966-69. Gao visits Iowa often to see his sons Nathaniel Gao, a junior at the University of Northern Iowa, and Gabriel Gao, a senior at Iowa City West High School.

The lobby display of photographs, texts and examples of calligraphy, illustrates Lin Hwai-min's comment that "The calligrapher is literally dancing."

"Cursive" is the second of three premieres during the 2003-2004 season that celebrate significant landmarks in the histories of choreographers and dance companies with which the UI has nurtured long and productive relationships. The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company presented the world premiere of the Hancher-commissioned "Reading and the Artificial Nigger" on Oct. 11, in celebration of that company's 20th anniversary; and the Hancher 2003-04 season will conclude with a Hancher-commissioned work to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

The commission and performance of "Cursive" are supported by Gary A. and LaDonna K. Wicklund through the University of Iowa Foundation; by the Wendell F. Miller Fund; and by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The second of Hancher's 2003-2004 pre-performance dinners in the Hancher Cafe will precede the Nov. 12 performance. The dinner, beginning at 6 p.m., costs $25 per person. Advance purchase is required.

Ticket prices for Cloud Gate's "Cursive" are: $40/36/32; UI student $32/12; senior citizen $32/28.80/25.60; youth $20/18/16.

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: 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.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, ur-acr@uiowa.edu.

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, winston-barclay@uiowa.edu.

PHOTOS are available at http://www.uiowa.edu/hancher/media.html or http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa/photos.html.