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James Sewell Ballet to Perform
Christmas Classic at UW-Eau Claire

RELEASED: Nov. 6, 2006

James Sewell Ballet performersEAU CLAIRE — James Sewell Ballet will present "Amahl and the Night Visitors" Monday, Nov. 13, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The innovative contemporary ballet company will perform on the Artists Series at 7:30 p.m. in Zorn Arena.

Gian Carlo Menotti's one-act opera is a heartwarming story about a little boy, his widowed mother, and the extraordinary night they were visited by the Three Kings on their star-guided journey to Bethlehem. Originally composed for NBC-TV in 1951, the enduringly popular work has been called the "Christmas Carol" of opera, the quintessential story of a Christmas miracle.

"To tell this fragile tale, Menotti wrote the simplest of music, but honest stuff pouring out heartfelt sentiments," wrote the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "James Sewell and his ballet troupe have brought another dimension to it, presenting the tale as dance theater."

The dancers dramatize the story with several movement styles, including American Sign Language. The 50-minute tale of faith, forgiveness, healing and compassion is perfect for the entire family.

The shepherds in the Artists Series production will be members of the Eau Claire community.

James Sewell Ballet was founded in 1990 by Sewell and his wife Sally Rousse, who danced the role of Amahl in the work's first performance in 1995. Based in New York City for its first three years, the company relocated to Minneapolis in 1993. Primarily presenting Sewell's contemporary ballet choreography, the company performs innovative works that explore the technical boundaries of ballet.

In choreographing the "Amahl" story, Sewell incorporated the visual-spatial movement of American Sign Language with classical ballet. His interest in ASL was prompted, in part, by his realization that Western dance culture, particularly ballet, has not developed a movement vocabulary for the performers' hands.

Since 1982 Sewell has choreographed more than 50 ballets, performed by more than a dozen companies in the United States and Taiwan. The New York Times describes his work as "different and unpredictable ... Always imaginative, often exquisite."

Tickets are $15 for the public, $13 for those 62 and older and UW System or Chippewa Valley Technical College faculty and staff, and $5 for those 17 and younger and UW System or CVTC students. Tickets are available at the Service Center counter in the east lobby of Davies Center and will also be sold at the door.

A dessert reception and discussion will precede the performance from 6 to 7 p.m. in The Dulany of Davies Center. Robert Knight and Toni Poll-Sorensen of the department of music and theatre arts will host the discussion. Tortes, cheesecakes, coffee and teas will be served. Tickets are $5 in advance at the Service Center and will be sold at the door.

Patrons may charge their tickets to MasterCard or Visa when they order by phone. Call 715-836-3727 or, outside the immediate Eau Claire area, call toll-free 800-949-UWEC. A $3 handling fee will be added to all telephone charge orders.

The Artists Series is supported in part by grants from the Chippewa Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Heartland Fund Program and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the University of Wisconsin System Institute on Race and Ethnicity. Wisconsin Public Radio and Community Television have contributed generous promotional support. Best Western Trail Lodge Hotel & Suites (715-838-9989) at 3340 Mondovi Road is the exclusive accommodations partner for the Artists Series.

Funded by the students of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the Artists Series is administered by the Activities and Programs office.

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JS/NW

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