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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 18, 2003

Bill T. Jones Celebrates 20th Anniversary With Hancher Premiere

The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company will celebrate its 20th anniversary -- and the company's long and fruitful relationship with Iowa -- with a world premiere performance at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11 in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

The tie with the UI will be enhanced with the world premiere of a Hancher co-commission, "Reading, Mercy and the Artificial Nigger," based on a short story by one of the most famous of UI Writers' Workshop alumni, Flannery O'Connor. The concert will also revive "Blauvelt Mountain," which Jones choreographed for himself and his partner, Arnie Zane, in 1980, and offer a preview of his new solo-with-video, "Chaconne," which will have its premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

During the company's preparation for the performance, Jones will be joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Alan McPherson, a graduate and faculty member of the UI Writers' Workshop; and Harry Stecopoulos, a faculty member in the English department, to discuss O'Connor's story and its impact on the creation of Jones' new work, in a free event at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9 in the Iowa Room of the Iowa Memorial Union.

The two-decade-old connection between Bill T. Jones and the UI Hancher Auditorium has produced some of the most acclaimed -- and controversial -- works in contemporary dance. In productions including "The Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin/The Promised Land" and "Still/Here," Jones has confronted, fearlessly and head-on, combustible issues including life-threatening illness, religious faith, homophobia and racism.

With his recent works, more abstract and introspective in character, Jones has continued to build his reputation as one of the most important artists in American dance history. Jones presented two premieres during Hancher's Millennium Festival. And in his most recent Hancher performance, in January 2002, Jones presented the world premiere of a groundbreaking collaboration with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, featuring works set to music by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich.

The Oct. 11 20th-anniversary concert in Hancher both reflects his creative past and points to the future. Labeled "The Phantom Project" -- "Because our choreographic and theatrical investigation has been broad and evolutionary, any attempt to retrieve a work from the past is like trying to evoke a phantom," Jones explains -- the anniversary is the beginning of a multi-year effort to revive and reflect upon the two-decade output of the company.

"Blauvelt Mountain," a duet set to an electronic score by Helen Thorington, pre-dated the formal founding of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. The revival emphasizes Jones' collaboration with Zane, who died in 1988. Zane was originally a photographer, but he was brought into the dance world by Jones, both as a performer and a choreographer.

"Chaconne," set to solo violin music by Bach, reflects Jones' thoughts about how a solo can be extended and inflected by video. The video reproduces his performance from several points of view, creating the opportunity for him to dance multi-perspective duets and trios with his own recorded image.

"Reading, Mercy and the Artificial Nigger" features five duets, gender neutral and color blind, that partner inequalities in size and power. The dances are set to an original score by Daniel Bernard Roumain that is influenced by Protestant hymns.

O'Connor's 1955 short story, "The Artificial Nigger," has been called an inter-generational "lesson about injustice," a story not so much about race but about how the narrowness of bigotry and the misuse of power distort human relationships.

Founded as a multicultural dance company in 1982, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company emerged during an eleven-year collaboration between Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane. It emerged onto the international scene with the world premiere of "Intuitive Momentum," a collaboration with legendary jazz drummer Max Roach at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Since then, the company's repertoire has enlarged to include more than 75 works, which have been performed in more than 130 American cities and 30 countries. Audiences of approximately 100,000 annually see the company across the country and around the world.

Jones has been honored with a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, the Dance Magazine Award, the Creative Artists Public Service Award in Choreography, several choreographic fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Award and two Bessie Awards. In 2000, The Dance Heritage Coalition named Jones "An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure."

In addition to creating more than 50 works for his own company, Jones has received many commissions to create dances for modern and ballet companies including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Axis Dance Company, the Boston Ballet, the Lyon Opera Ballet, the Berkshire Ballet, the Berlin Opera Ballet and the Diversions Dance Company.

Jones' TV credits include "Fever Swamp," which was filmed for PBS's "Great Performances" series, and "Untitled" for "Alive from Off Center," which aired on PBS in 1989. In 1992, a documentary on Bill T. Jones' "Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin/The Promised Land" was aired on "Dance in America" as part of PBS's "Great Performances" series. CBS Sunday Morning broadcast two features on Jones' work, and "Still/Here" was aired nationally and internationally.

The making of "Still/Here" was also the subject of a documentary by Bill Moyers entitled "Bill T. Jones: Still/Here with Bill Moyers" which included extensive footage from Iowa.

Jones' work was profiled in the Blackside documentary "I'll Make Me A World: A Century of African-American Arts," which aired in 1999. And his "D-Man in the Waters" is included in "Free to Dance," an Emmy award-winning documentary that chronicles modern dance's African-American roots, which premiered on PBS in 2001.

The new commission and performance are supported by William and Karen Rubright, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for the 20th-anniversary celebration of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company are $36, $33 and $30 ($28.80 and $12 for UI students; $28.80, $26.40 and $24 for senior citizens; and half price for audience members 17 and younger).

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