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The Buzz, 10-17: Conscious
Danial's Song; Philly Artists for Lebanese Kids; Dance Education Under Occupation

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider

I got your back, baby

Michael Blake, who performed in the Minneapolis premiere of Shapiro & Smith's "ANYTOWN," is moved by Danial Shapiro's passing October 3 to drop this note:

Danial (Danny) Shapiro was the kindest and most accepting man I've ever known. He defined the words "unconditional love" to me every day of our 23-year friendship. I will miss Danny's dance, his laughter, and most of all his love for me, terribly.

Danny and I were scheduled to be dancing together again in Janis Brenner's reconstruction of Murray Louis's "Porcelain Dialogues" early next year. When he wasn't showing up for the early rehearsals, I sent the following email on September 21:

Dan Dans,

I want you to know that I'm sending lots of love in your direction.... We really need you in rehearsal. Please hurry and get strong. How do you expect me to stand on my own without you holding me up? I LOVE YOU!

Danny responded the same day:

Working on the getting strong part....

Seem to be having some success.... I'll have your back soon baby.



And Sali Gill-Johnson, director of Appalachian State University's arts and culture programs, shares:

I am glad we played a small part of Danial's life and legacy. I will never forget him dancing in Boone -- he was amazing on stage -- like nothing was even wrong, but no doubt pushing himself to the limit.... And when I first met him, I felt as though we had known each other already. My heart goes out to Joanie and the company.

When the Dan comes around

Recently, watching mostly white dancers try to simulate an implicitly Arab population dodging bombs, in William Forsythe's new "Three Atmospheric Studies," I found myself thinking, (censored version), "You're white dancers. What do you know about living in conditions like this?"

This doesn't mean being a dance artist is not without its opportunities for bravery, on the stage or off. At the top of the list of the latter must be sticking up to journalists -- and signing your name. My memories of Dan Shapiro are mostly light -- revolving around e-mail schtick. An exception is the occasion I incorrectly and unjustly railed in public at a presenter -- not over a matter of any actual import to the art, but following a personal contretemps. Dan responded with an impassioned defense of the presenter and a taking to task of me that was also -- I realized in retrospect -- a well-meaning attempt to help me. "I realize you'll probably flame me for this," Dan noted, indicating that this was not easy for him. (When I did, he responded in typical Dan fashion: "I said you'd probably flame me. I was right!" I eventually apologized to the presenter. When I mentioned this to Dan at an APAP cocktail later, over beers and laughter with him and APAP official Michael Conaty, it was clear that he had let the incident slide off him, as we slid back into our easy repartee.)

Dan did not know this presenter particularly well; as far as I'm aware, he did not regularly perform at the theater involved. So he had no particular interest in sticking up for the presenter to a journalist, an act in which there is no percentage -- other than that I had done the person an injustice, and in the process had disappointed him. As I look back now, I see that in talking back to me, Dan was also signaling that he did not regard me simply as another journalist, but a colleague -- a member of the community whom he took seriously and for whom he had high expectations.

Dan's passion for just causes also extended into what we used to call 'politics,' before it became evident that the stakes were so much broader. Before the 2000 presidential election -- and before most of us could guess at these guys' real agenda -- Dan sent out an e-mail to his list begging those in swing states not to vote for Green candidate Ralph Nader but to consider the consequences and vote for Democrat Al Gore.

As much as he filled a stage, Danial Shapiro also occupied the world. Ours is a less jolly and more fragile place without him.

PS: If you'd like to do more than mourn, you can make Dan, and yourself, a valuable gift: Get yourself or the men in your life tested for prostate cancer, as I did last week. It's called a PSA, it's a blood test, and it's easy. Don't wait until you're 50; it may be too late.

Mideast Children's Watch, 1

Always living in the real world as emphatically as she brings her boots down on its stages is my home girl flamenco dancer and choreographer Anna Arias Rubio (also this publication's flamenco editor), one of the artists taking part in an evening of music and dance to benefit the children of Lebanon, this Saturday at Philadelphia's St. Maron's Hall, 1013 Ellsworth Street. $25 gets you performances by the Mideast Ensemble, Animus, Aravod, Flamenco Del Encuentro, the Hired Guns, and others. In addition to Anna, featured dancers include Habiba, Azhia, Valerie, Meesha, Rena, Najia, Galilah, Abigail Zbikowski, and Natalie Bishar. Your ticket also gets you num-nums from North 3rd Restaurant and Bar, Fergie's Pub, Konak Restaurant, and more.

Proceeds go to Caritas Lebanon, part of the Caritas International Confederation, one of the world's largest humanitarian networks, encompassing 162 Catholic organizations working in 200 countries and territories. The festivities kick-off at 7 p.m. and continue until one in the morning. Go 'dere!

Dance Education: Need or Frill?

While we're discussing the welfare of children in the Mideast, Palestinian dancer Omar Barghouti thinks dance is under-utilized, to say the least. In "Palestinian Dance Education under Occupation: Need or Frill?," published recently by This Week in Palestine, Barghouti writes:

"Despite an almost obvious and persistent need to promote creativity, imagination and freedom of expression as crucial ingredients in cultural development, dance as a form of spiritual and cultural education as well as a useful medium in education has been virtually non-existent in the formal education system in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). Music, drama and plastic arts may have fared relatively better, but not by much. It is high time to challenge this deficiency head-on, both from a cultural and a political perspective, particularly since its causes are self-inflicted, to a large extent."

And I really wish Mr. Forsythe -- not to mention the plethora of other dancemakers most of whose supposed artistic responses to violence have been simply to mimic it -- had been able to read the following before mounting his simplistic anti-war dance & drama diatribe:

"Under conditions of occupation Palestinian dance has been largely viewed as yet another tool for political agitation against the oppressor or a politically-motivated exercise in reviving cultural roots, again in defiance of the will of the occupiers, who have consistently tried to confiscate or altogether suppress any expression of Arab-Palestinian cultural heritage. Artistic excellence, innovation and growth, deemed far less significant than political content, were thus forfeited or ignored. As a result, developing dance -- in both technique and content -- even as a form of artistic resistance, open to the fresh influences of world cultures and changing Palestinian circumstances, has faced serious challenges from within society, not just from the occupation authorities. Social conservatives were particularly incensed by the tendency inherent in contemporary Palestinian dance, as in all contemporary art forms around the world, to defy anachronistic norms, challenge patriarchic and clerical authority, or rebel against molded, inherited parameters of allowed thought and expression."

You won't read stuff like that in the New York Times! To read more of it on This Week in Palestine, please click here.


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