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IAS explores 'Ancient World Through Modern Eyes' this spring

(clockwise from top) Lori Belilove and the Isadora Duncan Dance Company; Target Margin Theatre's "Dinner Party" and The Joffrey Ballet performs "Rite of Spring."
(clockwise from top) Lori Belilove and the Isadora Duncan Dance Company; Target Margin Theatre's "Dinner Party" and The Joffrey Ballet performs "Rite of Spring."

The Interdisciplinary Arts Symposium’s fourth season explores “Ancient World Through Modern Eyes” this semester. IAS is a theme-based, public performance series with artists in residence, a seminar for UNL students, public lectures to complement the performances and a book series, published by the University of Nebraska Press.

Founded and directed by Professor Rhonda Garelick, IAS places the performing arts in a broader, more meaningful context, creates a diverse audience for performances and brings world-class performance and scholarship to UNL and Lincoln.

“The ancients have been the subject of contemplation and interpretation by artists for millennia,” Garelick said. “I have a particular interest in modernism and my current book has a long section on the Ballets Russes and their interpretations of classical antiquity through dance, so that’s how this season’s theme started.”

The first performance of the season is The Joffrey Ballet: The Rite of Spring on Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lied Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are $46/36/29 ($23/18/$14.50 for students) and available through the Lied Center Box Office at (402) 472-4747 or (800) 432-3231 or online at http://www.liedcenter.org.

“Rite of Spring is not based on Greek myth, but it has roots in the ancient Slavic myth,” Garelick said.

Widely considered one of the world’s finest ballet companies, The Joffrey Ballet celebrates the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which premiered in 1913.

“Rite of Spring blew away dance tradition when it opened in Paris in 1913 with a score by Stravinsky, which most people at the time didn’t yet know how to hear, and choreography by Nijinsky, which most people didn’t yet know how to see,” Garelick said. “What was extraordinary about the Ballets Russes was they came to Paris and dared to combine popular dance, folkloric art form, classical ballet and modernist art into a vast, multimedia spectacle that pulled no punches.”

It wasn’t an equivocal success at the time, but has since earned accolades.

“As a scholar of dance, I’m fascinated by it. It was one of those rare turning points in history,” Garelick said. “[Sergei] Diaghilev, the impresario behind the Ballets Russes, understood that you could bring together many different art forms in a surprising way and cultivate the public to experience new things. He, himself, was not exactly an artist, but he was a genius at creating a culture of art.”

Audiences should expect an impressive performance.

“It’s simply stunning,” Garelick said. “There’s a sheer pleasure factor, which I take really seriously. I don’t think it’s shocking anymore to audiences, especially those who follow modern ballet, but I think everyone can appreciate the beauty of the combination of classical ballet and folkloric tradition, which includes some amazing costumes. Also, if you watch it carefully, you can see how the choreography took classical ballet and bent it at angles inflecting it with a modernist visual, even painterly aesthetic.”

The second performance in the IAS season is Lori Belilove and The Isadora Duncan Dance Company’s “Dances Inspired by Greek Antiquity” on Wednesday, March 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lied Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are $12 adults/$6 students (free to UNL Faculty, staff and students) and available through the Lied Center Box Office.

Garelick said Duncan “is one of the founding mothers of modern dance.” An American dancer, she lived in Western Europe and the Soviet Union and performed to acclaim throughout Europe after being exiled from the U.S. for her Soviet sympathies.

“Modern dance is a little bit like jazz in that it has American roots, but then travelled the whole globe,” Garelick said. “Duncan was among the first to do that. She wanted to break away from ballet tradition and create a more natural form of dance. She felt that she found the roots of that new form in Ancient Greece.”

Belilove is the premiere interpreter of Duncan’s work in America today.

“I’ve seen her perform, and it’s not imitation,” Garelick said. “It’s creative, thoughtful reinterpretation, but very much based in Duncan’s work. She will be specifically focusing here on Duncan’s dances inspired by Greek antiquity.”

Belilove will also conduct a masterclass with UNL dance students.

“The UNL dancers will get to experience an authentic Duncan-style dance class,” Garelick said. “That form of modern dance is very much about the body’s natural movements. It’s not about defying gravity as classical ballet had been, but about working with it.”

IAS seminar students can attend the masterclass as observers to get a behind-the-scenes appreciation of the process.

In addition, Belilove will present a lecture on Tuesday, March 12 at 3:30 p.m. in Rm. 202 of the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center on the UNL city campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

“I hope many people will come hear the lecture and see the performance,” Garelick said. “My goal with IAS is to make performance something much more than a throwaway experience, where you buy a ticket, see something wonderful, but then leave and forget about it. I want to put things in a context, so we have the artists or critics come and anchor what’s going on by providing historical and critical background. Lori Belilove is the best person to do that. To go and hear her speak and then see her company perform will offer a far more enriching and complete experience.”

The third performance in the season is Target Margin Theatre’s “The Argument” and “Dinner Party,” on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 23-24 at 7 p.m. in the Johnny Carson Theater of the Lied Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are $12 adults/$6 students (free to UNL Faculty, staff and students) and available through the Lied Center Box Office. Tickets provide admission to both theatrical works, performed consecutively each evening.

Directed by award-winning David Herskovits, founder of Target Margin Theatre, Garelick said he does not do new plays.

“He does extant plays or things based on extant texts, but in a very avant garde, post-modern way,” Garelick said.

“The Dinner Party” is based on Plato’s “Symposium,” while “The Argument” is based both on Aristotle’s “Poetics” and the essays of Gerald F. Else.

Herskovits will present a lecture on Thursday, April 11 at 3:30 p.m. in Rm. 202 of the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center on the UNL city campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

“He will explain how he turned non-dramatic texts into drama because Plato’s Symposium and Aristotle’s Poetics are philosophy texts after all, not plays,” Garelick said. “He’s someone whose work I’ve known and admired for many years. I’ve watched his company evolve from its very beginnings.”

Garelick is pleased with the growth of IAS.

“The program has grown in every way,” she said. “We’re definitely always getting increased participation. I think word is getting out into the community and more and more among the university. It’s so collaborative. My goal has been to help create a sustained performing arts audience that blurs the line between what the university does and what the community might see. That applies to the students, as well. There’s not just school and then life on the outside, or ‘entertainment’ and school work.”

Garelick encourages everyone to attend the performances and lectures of this season’s IAS.

“I think it’s our best season ever,” she said. “It’s one of the most physically gorgeous, especially the Joffrey and Lori Belilove Company. It’s also very appropriate for all ages. Anyone who has children studying dance or music should bring them. I think everyone in school reads the classics, but a lot of young people don’t realize all the amazing work that’s been done based on those classics. This is a good opportunity to see the longevity of these works, in different media and different forms.”

For more information or to reserve a space at the lectures, e-mail ias@unl.edu, call (402) 472-5186 or visit http://www.unl.edu/ias.