Boston Ballet dancer shot

by Beacon Staff • October 4, 2006

Just after 2 a.m. on Sept. 10, ballet dancer Samuel Shapiro, 20, was shot in the stomach by a stray bullet from a gunfight near the corner of Fayette and Church streets, about four blocks southwest of Emerson's campus.,A recent South End shooting has some Emerson performing arts students worried about walking to classes that are held near the site of the crime.

Just after 2 a.m. on Sept. 10, ballet dancer Samuel Shapiro, 20, was shot in the stomach by a stray bullet from a gunfight near the corner of Fayette and Church streets, about four blocks southwest of Emerson's campus.

Shapiro was one of the most recent additions to Boston Ballet, where a total of 81 students are currently enrolled in six jazz and dance classes.

While Shapiro is expected to make a full recovery and return to his role with Boston Ballet without complication, some students remain concerned about going to and from the South End location.

Emerson students are required to leave Boston Ballet by 3 p.m. when taking classes, returning to Emerson by way of an area once known as the Combat Zone.

This name is no longer used to describe the Theatre District, but Shapiro's shooting reminded students of the dangers in the neighborhood.

"It makes me feel a bit unsafe," said junior musical theatre major Anna Harris, who takes classes at Boston Ballet four days a week. "If the Boston Ballet is going to be used as part of our campus for performing arts majors, Emerson needs to provide as much as they can for the safety and well-being of their students."

According to William McCabe, Director of Public Safety for Emerson, preparing students for the realities of city life begins with common sense and an understanding of what it means to live in a major urban area.

McCabe delivers a speech on what he calls "walking-around smarts" during freshman orientation each year.

"At 2 a.m., the bottom of the world drops off," McCabe said. "We're trying to get kids to pay attention. We're not saying where to go or where not to go, just what to look out for."

There have only been five violent crimes (defined as murder, manslaughter, sex offenses, and robbery) on campus in the past three years, but the Boston Police Department recorded over 638 violent crimes in the A-1 District around Emerson-Downtown, Beacon Hill, Charlestown and the North End-in 2005 alone.

Leslie Greenfield, a junior musical theatre major who attends classes at Boston Ballet on a regular basis, said the level of danger facing any student in the city is inherent.

"I don't feel any less safe, because I walk back during the afternoon," Greenfield said. "I used to live in the Doubletree, so I was always walking through the Theatre District at night last year. The only way you can really make yourself safer is not to walk there late at night."

Emerson dance instructor Marlena Yannetti, whose classes use space at Boston Ballet, said being safe does not necessarily translate to living in fear.

"I don't think it's a major problem if you use your common sense," said Yannetti, a 31-year faculty member who said she has seen the Combat Zone improve drastically. "We are masters of our own fate in some way. Beyond that, things happen. If you prepare for them, that's all the better."

There have yet to be any arrests made in the Shapiro shooting, though Boston Police are looking for anyone who may have witnessed a fight in the vicinity of the shooting.

Shapiro himself is expected to make a full recovery and return to his role with the Boston Ballet without complications.

"You hate to say it, but it was just kind of a wrong place, right time kind of thing," McCabe said. "Crime doesn't have to be part of the culture, but it is, all over the world. But there are things you can do once you get out in the world. The first person that is responsible for your safety is you."