Cyro Baptista and Beat the Donkey in Hancher

Cyro Baptista and Beat the Donkey - the multicultural, polyphonic percussion ensemble that is the first artist in this season's Spot: The Hancher Family Arts Adventure - will spend Mother's Day weekend in Iowa City after community events and performances in Perry, Marshalltown and Spencer. The residency will conclude with a performance at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 11, in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

The Mother's Day performance will include a family picnic on the Hancher Green, included in the price of the tickets. It will be preceded by three free events in the Iowa City area on Saturday, May 10:

-A family event with Cyro Baptista and Beat the Donkey at 10 a.m. in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library.
-A drum-making activity at 2 p.m. in the Iowa Children's Museum.
-An interactive performance at 3 p.m. in the Iowa Children's Museum ( the afternoon events are free, but there is an admission charge to the museum ).

Complete information, including parent materials in both English and Spanish, and schedules in each community, is available at The interactive Spot site also includes a variety of activities for children in conjunction with the residencies, and children can sign up to be "Spot Kids."

The ensemble's name, "Beat The Donkey, " comes from the Brazilian expression "Pau Na Mula" meaning "Let's go, let's do it!" Baptista has assembled a wild, torrid world-beat percussive ensemble that blends percussion, tap dance, martial arts, samba, jazz, rock and funk.

Their performances feature instruments from all over the globe - including the United States, Brazil, Indonesia, the Middle East and Africa - and unusual percussion inventions of Baptista's own creation. The musicians also come from all over the world, and they wear wild, elaborate costumes and frequently leave their instruments to break into spontaneous dance.

Calling their performance "a spellbinding percussion show, " the critic of the Richmond Times Dispatch wrote, "There was sword dancing, acrobatic stunts, carnival costumes, and through it all, some of the most innovative percussion I've ever seen. Thank goodness for musicians who have the courage to really get out there and try to do something completely different."

An article in Relix magazine summarized, "Beat the Donkey is a product of unbridled imagination, intense musical knowledge, skill and a lust for sheer joy, fusing Brazilian styles with jazz, funk, rock and reggae to a point where unique, genre-less music is made."

Since arriving in the United States in 1980 from Brazil, Baptista has emerged as one of the country's most in-demand percussionists, including performances on five Grammy-winning recordings.

The array of artists with whom he has performed and recorded includes David Byrne, Kathleen Battle, Gato Barbieri, Dr. John, Brian Eno, Robert Palmer, Melissa Etheridge, Laurie Anderson, John Zorn, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Michael Tilson Thomas, Herbie Hancock, Tony Bennett, Holly Cole, Daniel Barenboim, the Chieftains, Cassandra Wilson, Grover Washington Jr., Richard Stoltzman, Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo-Ma, Medeski Martin & Wood, Spyro Gyra, Janis Ian, Herbie Mann, Paul Simon, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Santana and Sting.

The first Beat the Donkey album was picked by the New York Times as one of the 10 best alternative albums of 2002. Readers of JAZZIZ and DRUM magazine voted it as "Best Brazilian CD of the Year" and named Baptista "Best Percussionist of 2002." Downbeat Magazine's 51st annual critics' poll selected him as a "Rising Star" in percussion.

In addition to solo and group recordings, Baptista has been composing music for the Nickelodeon cable channel for children.

Spot project residencies began in 2005 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 has enabled Hancher to enhance arts participation through the use of innovative technology and direct interaction with performing artists.

Two artists are involved each year, with residencies leading up to Hancher performances. Rubberdance Group is upcoming this spring.

The Wallace Foundation grant, the largest programming grant in the auditorium's history, built 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 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.

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.

The performances and residency activities of Cyro Baptista and Beat the Donkey are supported by Douglas and Linda Paul, National Endowment for the Arts, the Iowa Arts Council and the Wallace Foundation through the University of Iowa Foundation. The Mother's Day picnic is supported by the Iowa City Hy-Vee Food Store on Waterfront Drive.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

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