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Released September 5, 2003

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SOUTHERN MISS BRINGS RENOWNED DANCE COMPANY TO STAGE

HATTIESBURG - The Shapiro and Smith Dance Company has a reputation for performing tales of beauty and wit that range from provocative to absurdly hilarious. The internationally acclaimed company will bring its "lighthearted satire and over-the-top athleticism" to The University of Southern Mississippi for a two-week residency that culminates in a public concert Sept. 18 in the Mannoni Performing Arts Center auditorium.

Shellie Nielsen, associate professor of dance in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Southern Miss and director of this project, credits the program's appearance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in May 2002 for "reconnecting" with the company.

"I met and performed with Joanie (Smith) and Danial (Shapiro) several years ago when they were guest performers at an Alwin Nikolais Lecture-Demonstration for the 7th World Conference on Gifted and Talented Children," Nielsen said. "I was one of two dancers chosen from the participants in the Ririe/Woodbury summer dance workshop to perform with the Ririe/Woodbury Company at this same lecture-demonstration. Since then, I lost touch with them until May 2002 when our students performed at the Kennedy Center.

"My colleague Janet Prieur attended a reception while we were in Washington, and Shapiro walked up and started talking to her. She told him about our program, and the result was our upcoming residency with them."

The Southern Miss performance will showcase the company's latest choreographic endeavor. Called "American Voices," the choreography uses songs by Bruce Springsteen, Soozie Tyrell and Patti Scialfa to "reflect the plight of regular people - the daily struggles, life challenges, and deep intimacy that make up humankind," according to Danial Shapiro and Joanie Smith, co-artistic directors for the company.

The movement choices for the concert also are inspired by the images of the Farm Service Administration photographers Eudora Welty and Walker Evans.

"Shapiro and Smith exhibit a great sense of humor and humanity in their work," said Suzanne Hirsch, a 1997 graduate of the Southern Miss dance program. "They utilize props in their work in a very unique way, and they are very athletic."

Dancing with breathtaking physicality and emotional depth, the now seven-member troupe has earned an international reputation for virtuosity, substance, craft, and pure abandonment. Founded in 1985, the company began as collaboration between Shapiro and Smith.

After meeting in the companies of Murray Louis and Alwin Nikolais, the duo went on to create their first choreography during a Fulbright Lectureship in Helsinki, Finland. Since then, the duo's blend of contemporary dance and dramatic theater has elicited enthusiastic receptions across the United States, Europe, Asia and Canada.

The company has been presented by major festivals and venues, including the Joyce Theater, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, Dance Theater Workshop, St. Mark's DanSpace Project, PS 122, Festival di Milano, Teatro de Danza in Mexico City, Recklinghausen RuhrFestSpiele, and the Korean International Festival.

The local residency will include workshops and master classes for local K-12 school, Southern Miss students and the community-at-large. Funding for this project is supported by the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Southern Arts Federation, Partners for the Arts, the Hattiesburg Arts Council, the university's vice president for Research and Economic Development and the Honors College.

"The company will bring a knowledge of how dance affects our lives and society," Hirsch said. "It will reach virtually every aspect of our community through its classes, lecture demonstrations, concerts, and new work."

For more information on the educational component of the company's residency, call the Southern Miss dance program at (601) 266-4161.

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert in the Mannoni Performing Arts Center auditorium are $15 general admission and $10 for students, senior citizens (65+), Southern Miss faculty and staff and members of Partners for the Arts. Call the Southern Miss Ticket Office at (601) 266-5418 or 800-844-8425 for tickets. Order online at www.tickets.usm.edu. Discount tickets are available for school groups or 10 or more. Call 266-4161 for information.

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April 20, 2004 4:48 PM

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