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Flash Flashback, 10-11: Cover Me
In "Anytown" with Shapiro & Smith, the Boss & Co.

By Carol Seavey
Copyright 2004, 2006 Carol Seavey

(Editor's Note: The Dance Insider has been revisiting its Flash Archive. This Flash originally appeared on September 8, 2004.)

MINNEAPOLIS -- See a dance concert. Get tested for prostate cancer.

Shapiro & Smith Dance has undertaken a new campaign, PSA in USA, in conjunction with its three-year national tour of the new "Anytown: Stories of America," choreographed by Danial Shapiro and Joanie Smith to music by Bruce Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, and Soozie Tyrell. PSA stands for the Prostate Specific Antigen test.

"The goal is to test one million men," Danial Shapiro said in a recent interview.

The campaign has been undertaken in conjunction with the Us TOO International Prostate Cancer Education and Support Network. At each or selected performances of "Anytown," nurses will be in the lobby to give PSA tests. The simple test involves drawing blood, which is sent to a lab. Results will be mailed to participants. High levels of PSA in the blood may indicate the presence of prostate cancer.

Shapiro was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 44 in October 2002. "You need to be tested at 40, not 50," currently the recommended age for getting tested, he urged. While the second leading cause of cancer death among men, prostate cancer is treatable if detected early on.
'Human Touch' from Shapiro & Smith's "Anytown: Stories of America." Back row, left to right: Michael Blake, Joanie Smith and Danial Shapiro (on bed), Carl Flink; center, l-r: Maggie Bergeron, Jamie Ryan, Eddie Oroyan; front, l-r: Bernard Brown, Toni Pierce-Sands, Laura Selle, Kelly Drummond Cawthon. Paul Virtucio photo courtesy Shapiro & Smith.

"Anytown: Stories of America," premiered August 18 at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis, and will be reprised in 2005, including October 7 & 8 in Red Bank, New Jersey, October 14 & 15 in Gainsville, Florida, October 21-23 in Philadelphia, October 28-29 in Boone, North Carolina, and November 1 & 2 in Asheville, North Carolina. (For information on venues, please click here.)

Shapiro was in chemotherapy for nine months during choreography, which brought new challenges. "I had to learn to let the dancers make the choreography," he said. "Give them images, situations, and let them work with that."

The dance emphasizes the importance of family and community, driven by the music of Springsteen and the E-Street band. Joanie Smith's sister is Soozie Tyrell, an E-Streeter and the best friend of Scialfa, Springsteen's wife. Folk and rock songs setting the pace for "Anytown" are Springsteen's "Human Touch," "Youngstown," "The Big Muddy," "Ain't Got You," "Countin' on a Miracle" and "Born in the USA"; three songs by Scialfa, including the dynamic "City Boys"; and six by Tyrell, including "ferdouganal" and "White Lines."

"We're very cognizant of the American-ness of the music and the musicians," Shapiro said.

The multi-generational cast portrays three families and the struggles they endure. Theoretically, they're all working class families in the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, but the milieu could encompass anytime, place or person.

The situations are timeless and deep: a love triangle, a flood, death and more. The intense story-line is countered by comedy and playful leaps and bounds, although the heavy, thought-provoking content could use more light-hearted moments.

The drama comes not just from the struggles, but in how the characters persevere through them. Family members turn to each other for support and carry each other when times are tough. Communities band together in the face of danger.

The dancers wear everyday clothes; they might have walked in off the street. The weighted movement rolls with the music. At different times during the performance, dancers melt with the baseline, give in to a rock 'n' roll beat and express the lyrics.
Toni Pierce-Sands and Danial Shapiro in the 'Big Black Heaven' section of Shapiro & Smith's "Anytown: Stories of America." Paul Virtucio photo courtesy Shapiro & Smith.

"You let the music take you because the music is present," said dancer Toni Pierce-Sands. Formerly a featured soloist with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Pierce-Sands was awarded a 2004 McKnight Artist Fellowship.

For the three-year "Anytown" tour, Shapiro & Smith Dance is evolving from a set of 10 dancers and one technician on contract to a larger pool of interchangeable dancers and technicians. "We used to spend a lot of time maintaining" the company, Shapiro explained. The new structure will give the dancers more flexibility and ensure that the production continues if there are injuries. "These are not 'my' dancers, but they are extraordinary," Shapiro said.

Carol Seavey is a journalism major and dance minor at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.

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