Cajun/New Orleans jazz extravaganza to kick off new Arts & Lectures season at UC Santa Cruz

The new UC Santa Cruz 2004-05 Arts & Lectures season will open with a blast of pure Southern gusto on October 8 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.

The Grammy award-winning sextet, BeauSoleil-described by Prairie Home Companion's Garrison Keillor as "simply the best Cajun band in the world-will join forces with Louisiana's legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band for a rollicking opening night double bill of New Orleans jazz, zydeco, country, and blues.

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"It should be an incredibly high-energy night," noted Arts & Lectures director Michelle Witt, "with lots of dancing to some of the finest musicians around. It's really hard to beat a show that combines the best of New Orleans jazz with the country's most popular Cajun ensemble."

But that's only the beginning of a diverse series of 18 events ranging from classical and world music, to modern dance, spoken word, and theater. The season runs through May 5 at various venues throughout Santa Cruz County.

"It's very much a mix of fine arts and popular culture," Witt observed. "We also try to combine mediums as much as possible; we often present a number of different styles in the same program."

Highlights of the 2004-05 season include appearances by three of the country's top dance companies. The mind-boggling Pilobolus Dance Theater will showcase a new commissioned work, Megawhat, along with the wildly imaginative and extremely athletic repertoire that has made this modern dance company so popular throughout the world.

Pioneering avant-garde choreographer Trisha Brown's dance company will also perform a newly commissioned work, Present Tense, set to John Cage's Pieces for Prepared Piano, as well as Set & Reset with sets and score by renowned artist Robert Rauschenberg. And the always innovative dancer/illusionists of Momix Dance Theater will offer founder Moses Pendleton's Baseball-a multimedia tribute to America's national pastime featuring music by James Brown, Loreena McKennitt, and Ali Farka Toure-on the weekend prior to the opening of this year's baseball season.

A brilliant new solo show by HBO, Showtime, and Comedy Central veteran Marga Gomez; a lecture by Chuck D, cofounder of the legendary rap group Public Enemy and now host of a new morning show on Air America Radio; and a tribute to the late monologist Spalding Gray are just a few of the more unusual events slated for the coming months.

There is more, however, to UCSC's Arts & Lectures program than just a multitude of great shows.

"Nearly every artist who comes is doing some kind of educational outreach in the community," Witt noted. "This might involve offering master classes, conducting lecture/demonstrations, or holding open rehearsals with dance and theater companies."

Witt added that there will also be an opening night postconcert party for Gold Circle and Arts & Lectures members-including food and wine with members of BeauSoleil and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band--as well as wine receptions for members during intermission at selected events throughout the season. In addition, question-and-answer sessions will be open to the entire audience after almost every show.

"We have really wonderful conversations between the performers and our audiences," she observed. "People always stay and get involved, and the artists love it."

For more information about the new season or to obtain a full-color brochure, contact UCSC's Arts & Lectures at (831) 459-2159 or