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I finished reading Michele Wucker’s The Gray Rhino: How to Recognize and Act on Dangers We Ignore a few weeks ago. I had intended to write about the book, yet, like many people, I was left speechless by recent world events, including the breaking off of yet another huge chunk of Antarctica.

To most of us, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was—and continues to be—an increasingly horrific Black Swan, a highly improbable event with devastating impacts. Yet, to some foreign policy experts, it began as a Gray Rhino. William Burns, current director of the CIA, was US Ambassador to Russia in the 1990s. He wrote memos then advising against the expansion of NATO eastward because it was being perceived as a threat to Russian security. Other experts point to an overly mild response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. No one, however, predicted the senseless destruction and barbaric atrocities that have occurred.

What has happened at Chernobyl is also tragic. Young Russians who had not heard of the 1986 nuclear disaster there were ordered to enter contaminated areas without wearing any protective gear. Then, some of them were ordered to dig trenches in an area called the red forest that is so contaminated that even workers with protective gear are forbidden to enter it. Some soldiers have died from exposure to the radioactive dust. Others are severely ill with radiation sickness and may not recover. Ominously, the threat of a nuclear accident–or warfare–continues to lurk in the background.

What has all of the above to do with art, with dance, you may ask. Sadly, yet presciently, I spoke about nuclear weapons and the climate crisis in my solo, Last Gasp! (2018-19). As these existential threats are currently even more dire, I will reprise a relevant excerpt from Last Gasp! at the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts at Theater for the New City over Memorial Day Weekend.

Every year I remind myself that after the winter solstice the days will get longer. This year, on December 21st the Age of Aquarius we have been hearing about since Hair (1968) will actually, astronomically, begin: Jupiter will align with Saturn (not Mars) and the two planets will be close enough to appear as one unusually bright star. Weather permitting, this will be visible shortly after sunset.

Here’s to celestial inspiration and earthly renewal in the new year.

 


photos: Laura Shapiro in Last Gasp! (top) video capture; (bottom) photo by Jane Schreibman

In previous performances of Last Gasp! (in 2018 and 2019), I talked about the Doomsday Clock and how, in January 18, 2018, it was moved to two minutes to midnight, the closest it had been since the Cold War in the 1950s. Very recently the Doomsday Clock was moved even closer, to 100 seconds to midnight. For a thoughtful consideration of why this happened click here. For more information about Last Gasp!, click here.


photo credit: Laura Shapiro in Last Gasp!, Kathryn Butler Photography, 2019

Between the often oppressive heat and the ongoing chaos of the world, this summer I found myself doing more reading than choreographing, in addition to teaching. This research and reflection included books ranging from David Reich’s Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA Revolution and the New Science of the Ancient Past, to Margaret Atwood’s Hag Seed, to Lilian Karina and Marion Kant’s Hitler’s Dancers: German Modern Dance and the Third Reich.

Back in June, however, several colleagues attended the performance of Last Gasp! at Performance Mix Festival 33, and I was glad that the response was so positive. I am in–process of discussing further opportunities to perform the piece. I also have begun to re–embody between two oceans, which I performed just once this past February. I am grateful to Penny Ward’s clear video documentation, which reminds me of details I had forgotten and lets me see where the piece can be tweaked for future performance.

 


Laura Shapiro in Last Gasp! Photo credit: Kathryn Butler Photography

Reminder that I’ll be performing Last Gasp! on Sunday, June 9th at noon at Performance Mix Festival 33 at University Settlement, 184 Eldridge Street. Programming for the day continues through 6 pm with an intriguing mix of generations and cultures as well as media and genres.

Photo: Jane Schreibman

Hope you will be able to join us promptly at noon—no late seating—and then feel free to see as many sets and durational pieces as you like.

Where: Speyer Hall at University Settlement,
184 Eldridge Street, NYC
Admission: All Day Pass $20
Click here for ticket information.
Directions: F train to 2nd Avenue. Exit at 1st Avenue. Walk two blocks south and one block west.

Video artist Andrew Gurian (who created the projections for Last Gasp!) and I have created a 1:21–minute trailer for the upcoming performance of Last Gasp! at Performance Mix Festival on Sunday, June 9th at noon.

Hope you will be able to join us. For tickets, click here.

When: Sunday, June 9, 2019 at noon sharp—no late seating!
Where: Speyer Hall at University Settlement
            184 Eldridge Street (at Rivington)
Directions: F train to 2nd Avenue. Exit at 1st Avenue. Walk two blocks south and one block west.

On Sunday, June 9th—at noon—I will be performing Last Gasp! in Manhattan, the first piece of the opening set on the last day of Performance Mix Festival 33 in Speyer Hall at University Settlement, 184 Eldridge Street.

Photo: Jane Schreibman

Also on the the opening set with me are pieces by J. Bouey and Deborah Conton. All three of us have shown work at BAAD!, where I premiered Last Gasp! at the BAAD!Ass Women’s Festival last March and reprised it for the ReImagine End of Life Festival this past October. Click here for previous posts about Last Gasp!

June 9th will be a day-long event with five sets of performances from 12–6 pm in Speyer Hall as well as durational pieces upstairs in the gym. Hope you will be able to join us promptly at noon—no late seating—and then feel free to see as many sets and durational pieces as you like. Click here for ticket information.

I discover new things with each iteration of Last Gasp!

On October 28th at the Persistent Voices/Reimagine End of Life Festival at BAAD!, the way the audience responded to the humor led to my speaking becoming more conversational.

Then, in the Q and A afterwards, the comments from audience members, moderator Charles Rice-Gonzalez, and poets Urayoan Noel, Nahshon Anderson and Janis Astor Del Valle were thoughtful and appreciative as we shared our ideas about creative process as it relates to contemplating end-of-life issues.


Video Capture (L–R): Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Urayoan Noel, Laura Shapiro, Nahshon Anderson, Janis Astor Del Valle

While Andrew Gurian’s video projections add expressive dimensions to Last Gasp!, their proportions adapt to the physical dimensions of each performance space. When I conceived of Last Gasp! for BAAD!’s intimate black box space earlier this year, I imagined the images projected onto my blue hospital gown. While there was a little “spill” onto the back wall, it did not take away from this focus. At JPAC there was a much greater distance between the projector and the back of the theater, and a white scrim instead of a black wall.

I had no idea the projections from this section–including my shadow–were so huge until I saw the documenting video! (See video captures below.)

There will be another chance to see Last Gasp! at BAAD! on Sunday, October 28th at 3 pm, on a program with Bronx writers, activists, and performers reading from Persistent Voices, a poetry anthology highlighting work by writers lost to AIDS. The reading and dance performance will be followed by a discussion about end–of–life planning, affirming the worth of our lives and deaths. This is a free event yet as seating is limited, reservations are advised. RSVP to 718-918-2110.

Last-Gasp-Trio

Making Moves Dance Festival
Friday, September 21st at 7:30 pm

Jamaica Performing Arts Center
153-10 Jamaica Avenue, Jamaica, NY 11432
[a short walk from last stop on the E, J, and Z trains]

Tickets are $10. To purchase tickets, click HERE