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University of Iowa News Release

June 2, 2006

Hancher's 'Spot' Project Brings Drumming Of San Jose Taiko To Iowa

San Jose Taiko, which has created an American version of the Japanese virtuoso drumming tradition made internationally famous by Kodo, will conclude a three-week residency in Iowa with a performance at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 18 in the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium.

Through "Spot: The Hancher Family Arts Adventure," organized by Hancher, the drummers of San Jose Taiko will reside, socialize and perform in Spencer (June 2-4), Perry (June 7-9), Marshalltown (June 11-13) and Iowa City (beginning June 15), culminating in the Hancher performance, which will be preceded by a family picnic at 12:30 p.m. on the Hancher Green, included in the ticket price.

A full schedule of residency activities in each community is accessible on the Web at <www.spotkids.com>.

San Jose Taiko was founded in 1973 by young Californians searching for an outlet to convey their experiences as third generation Japanese-Americans. Looking to Japan for inspiration, they were drawn to the sounds of the taiko drum, an instrument that embodies the spiritual essence and heartbeat of Japan and its people.

With its roots in the folk tradition of Japan, the taiko has served many purposes: Priests used taiko to chase evil spirits and insects from the rice fields; samurai used taiko to bolster their courage and to instill fear in the enemy; villagers used taiko to pray for rain, to enliven festivals and to give thanks for bountiful harvests.

The practice and performance of taiko requires selfless dedication, physical endurance and a collective spirit. San Jose Taiko adopted these traditional values, but also infused the art of taiko with the vitality and freshness of their American identity to create a dynamic Asian-American art form. San Jose Taiko aims to transcend cultural boundaries and to foster greater understanding of Japanese-American culture.

The music of San Jose Taiko combines traditional Japanese sounds with African, Balinese, Latin, rock and jazz rhythms to produce an innovative contemporary sound.

All compositions performed by San Jose Taiko are written or arranged by members of the group. Composing, choreographing, designing and producing costumes, and handcrafting drums are part of the holistic process in which all members participate.

Company members also study both traditional and contemporary dance with leading choreographers, producing performances that are fully choreographed and theatrically lit extravaganzas of musical sound. Individual members of San Jose Taiko have also toured with Kodo, Ondekoza, Miyarabi Taiko and the jazz/fusion group, Hiroshima.

San Jose Taiko has been recognized for its excellence with an Advancement Program from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Multicultural Advancement Program from the California Arts Council, Meet The Composer International Creative Collaborations, grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Knight Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the Chevron Award for Excellence.

"Spot: The Hancher Family Arts Adventure" makes integral use of an interactive website -- <www.spotkids.com>. Children can become Spot Kids by registering at the website. Spot activities and information for parents are also available on the Web page, which special activities focusing on percussion and Japanese culture.

Spot project residencies began last year as a result of an $800,000 grant to Hancher from the Wallace Foundation, through its "Leadership and Excellence in Arts Participation" (LEAP) program. The grant enables Hancher to enhance arts participation through the use of innovative technology and direct interaction with performing artists over a period of four years.

Two artists will be involved each year -- romper rocker Dan Zanes and the ODC/San Francisco dance company were featured last year, and "certified lunatic" Tomas Kubinek was in residence this spring -- with residencies leading up to a Hancher performance.

The Wallace Foundation grant, which is the largest programming grant in the auditorium's history, builds on Hancher's experience partnering with Pella, Decorah and Burlington in the Iowa Network Project, also made possible by Wallace funding. That $300,000 grant was the largest previous grant received by the auditorium.

The LEAP grant is being combined with resources committed by several UI programs and offices -- Academic Technologies, University Relations, the Division of Student Services, the Graduate College and the office of the Vice President for Research.

During the course of the project, the University of Iowa Foundation is establishing a $200,000 endowment that will enable Hancher to continue its audience-development efforts with the technology and expertise developed through the project.

San Jose Taiko is also supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Iowa Arts Council and Meet the Composer. Peggy Scholz is the Iowa City performance sponsor, through the University of Iowa Foundation, and the picnic is supported by the Hy-Vee Food Store on Waterfront Dr.

Tickets for the June 18 Hancher picnic and performance are $25/23/22; youth $12.50/11.50/11.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. 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.hancher.uiowa.edu>.

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: <hancher-box-office@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