The Dance Warriors project is an artistic response to political and social issues, in collaboration with dancers across the country. This project started as my response to our changing political climate and my desire to make an impact for the better. This is my way to use New York dance photography to raise awareness about the issues that face us today. This session features dancer, Michelledana Shafran to raise awareness about lowering waste.
When I was in New York state last year, I met up with Michelledana to do a Dance Warriors session. She was interested in the topic of waste and waste reduction and I immediately tried to find a landfill to photograph in. This is a topic I am very passionate about as well and trash sorting is actually something that really fascinates me. So, the chance to do a Dance Warriors session about waste, in a garbage dump was really exciting.
Charlie Whitaker at Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency generously allowed us to photograph at the site he worked. He took time out of his day to give us a tour of the facility. Charlie also talked to us about the issues in the waste management system in the United States as well as some of the solutions they’re exploring. He was so passionate about his job and it was amazing getting to hear his perspective on the issue. As we walked around the site, I directed Michelledana to dance in front of the walls of trash and recycling. At the end, Charlie directed one of his workers to start using the crane while I photographed Michelledana. It was pretty much my favorite thing ever!
Interview with Michelledana Shafran on Lowering Waste
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I began dancing four decades ago! I feel like dance has been in my blood since birth as my parents both loved music and movement and dance was something we regularly enjoyed together while listening to our Disco, R & B, and Soul vinyl favorites.
Since childhood, I have trained in many different dance styles including jazz, ballet, modern, tap, Latin, ballroom, Israeli folk, and West African dance.
I have been working with people of all ages and diverse backgrounds, while teaching, choreographing, and performing for the last 30 years both nationally and internationally as well as having become a certified yoga teacher in 2013.
Why are you passionate about lowering waste?
I am passionate about lowering waste because I care so deeply for Mother Earth. I find myself amazed by all the material things and all the stuff that are continuously being mass-produced and purchased while I ponder if production efforts for all the things and all the stuff are causing harm to the environment in addition to the products’ excessive packaging and also wondering about how many more of those things and all that stuff already exists in the world.
As a result, I have most preferred to shop second hand and give homemade gifts. A decade ago, I was inspired to begin making art with recycled materials and have been doing so ever since.
Having traveled abroad and lived in another country, I have gained different perspectives on how humans around the world view things and stuff in relationship to themselves and to nature. I’m, subsequently, very grateful for the recycling awareness and all the recycling centers that exist here in the US. Though, I honestly feel that as a whole we can do and be better. Recycle, reduce, reuse!
How has dance helped you express yourself?
Dance has always allowed me to express myself in ways that words could not. Dance has always invited me to open and be vulnerable. I’ll dance to move something through me. I find myself connecting more deeply with myself through dance. I love connecting with others through dance and being witness to their awe-inspiring physical expression. Dance fills me with a unique joy, excitement, and euphoria that I haven’t yet experienced in any other modality. Dance is a celebration of the miracle that is our body, mind, and spirit.
What do you think is the intersection between art and politics?
The intersection between art and politics seems a very, very busy one! I find this intersection filled with many different viewpoints, perspectives, and opinions, fully quipped with revved up engines, though I believe simply that people are eager to be seen and heard, to connect, and sincerely wish to share their human story with others.
As seen in politics, art invites opportunity for people to unite and to be exposed to similar or new ways of thinking and seeing the world which will either help people to tune more deeply within or influence them to completely tune out.
Let’s tune in, and dance!