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Released January 16, 2003


HATTIESBURGSetting a solo dance work to the music of J. S. Bach's "Goldberg Variations" was no easy feat for renowned New York dancer/choreographer Mark Haim.

The project began as small studio pieces to please his friends, but fear of being caught in the crossfire while walking through small gangs of kids on the streets of New York prompted Haim to finish his unique creation – before it was too late.

The resulting 80-minute work, broken into two parts of 30 solos in total, has been performed worldwide and now comes to the stage at The University of Southern Mississippi Feb. 1 in the Mannoni Performing Arts Center Auditorium.

Haim is actually making a return visit to the Hattiesburg campus Jan. 30-Feb. 1 to complete a residency he started in November 2002 with the university's dance program. The residency, which also includes visits to Petal Middle School and Hattiesburg High School, has been a multitiered project that culminates with the dancer's public performance.

During his first visit, Haim created a new dance piece for the university's Repertory Dance Company – a work that will premiere during the company's spring dance concert in April. He also gave seven master classes for students of the dance program.

The concert, presented by Partners for the Arts, gives local audiences an opportunity to see his acclaimed work. The performance will feature live accompaniment by pianist André Gribou.

"This special performance will attract dance and music enthusiasts alike," said Dr. Mary Ann Stringer, dean of the College of the Arts. "It is a unique marriage of talents by a modern choreographer and a master of classical music – and one you wouldn't expect. How often do we have the opportunity to ‘see' Bach's music through dance?"

Haim, a native New Yorker, began studying the piano at 6 and attended the Manhattan School of Music Preparatory Division. But, he was accepted into and graduated from the dance division of the Juilliard School in 1983.

In an interview, Haim said he was "a complete Bach nut." His early music education, combined with his later dance career, seemed to move Haim in a natural progression to create a dance work set to the 1742 published masterpiece.

Gribou, a respectable composer, also is a graduate of Juilliard, as well as the Hartt School of Music. He is the music director/associate professor in the School of Dance at Ohio University.

Haim and Gribou premiered the "Goldberg Variations" dance solo at the American Dance Festival in 1997. Since then, the duo has performed the work throughout the United States (including sold-out performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.), Russia and the Seoul Dance Festival in Korea.

More than one critic has described Haim's performances of the Variations as "brilliant," "compelling" and "infinitely imaginative." Haim has successfully translated the emotions that Bach exudes in the music. Using few special effects, no props, and simple, yet elegant, costumes, the dancer lets the music take the lead in winning his audiences.

The relationship between Haim and the Repertory Dance Company and dance program at Southern Miss began many years ago, when many Southern Miss dance students studied with him at festivals and conferences around the country.

"He has been on the faculty of every major dance festival in the United States, and his knowledge is vast in modern dance and ballet techniques," said Suzanne Stack Hirsch, a graduate of the Southern Miss dance program and now the development officer for the College of the Arts. "In July 2002, our dance program received a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission with support from Partners for the Arts to bring Haim in for a two-part residency. The Southern Arts Federation also awarded a regional touring grant in October (2002) to assist with the project."

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert are $15 and $10 and may be purchased through the Southern Miss Ticket Office. Call (601) 266-5418 or 800-844-8425 for tickets. Order online at Discount tickets are available for school groups or 10 or more. Call 266-4161 for information.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM