Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Anna Halprin: Dance Revolutionary

Dance is the breath made visible.
~ Anna Halprin

Modern dancer pioneer Anna Halprin believes deeply in the transformative power of dance: dance to teach, dance to heal: 

I danced for the fun of it. I danced to rebel. 
And I danced with my children. 
I danced for social justice. 
If I was going to dance, I wanted to dance 
about real things that were real in my life. 
We broke as many barriers as we possibly could.

Founder of the Dancer's Workshop in San Francisco (1955) and the renowned nonprofit Tamalpa Institute (1978) in Kentfield, California, which offers programs in movement-based expressive arts, Halprin has taught some of the most famous modern dancers in America: Meredith Monk, Trisha Brown, and Yvonne Rainer, among others. Her output over seven decades numbers some 150 full-length dance theatre works. She founded the first multicultural dance company, has written several books (listed below), has received a long list of prestigious awards, and has been named by the Dance Heritage Coalition one of "America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures". A cancer survivor, Halprin also has explored how dance can help heal persons with AIDS or other catastrophic illnesses: 

Before I had cancer, I lived my life for my art;
after I had cancer, I lived my art for my life. 

Halprin, born in July 1913, has been making dance since the 1930s — dance that's thrillingly experimental, theatrically innovative, and imbued deeply with Halprin's philosophical approach to her art as a tool for examining social issues and inspiring social change. Halprin's also collaborative; her staging in Berlin, Germany, of Planetary Dance: A Prayer for Peace to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Potsdam Treaty to end World War II involved more than 400 participants. Her Seniors Rocking, which is available as a DVD, involved more than 50 seniors with different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, all using rocking chairs (see Flickr photostream). Among Halprin's most recent work is Intensive Care: Reflections on Death and Dying (see video here). 

The first feature-length film about Halprin's life and career, Breath Made Visible (Argot Pictures, 2009), was screened at the 62nd International Film Festival, Locarno 2009, Switzerland, and in New York City earlier this year at the Dance on Camera Film Festival; it was released in April in San Francisco and New York. The 80-minute documentary by Swiss filmmaker Reudi Gerber includes interviews with the great Merce Cunningham and other contemporary choreographers and dancers, archival footage not previously seen, and video excerpts of performances at home and abroad. The film also addresses Halprin's relationship with her late husband Lawrence Halprin, a world-famous landscape architect and environmental planner who designed the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The 2010 schedule for screenings of the film in the United States is here. (A DVD is not yet available.)

Below is the trailer for the film, the Website for which, in English or German, is here.


Anna Halprin Website

Anna Halprin and Ruedi Gerber on Marinations Program, Marin County, California, Part 1 and Part 2, on YouTube 

Anna Halprin: Audio Essay on YouTube

Anna Halprin, Returning to Health: With Dance, Movement and Imagery (Life Rhythm, 2002)

Anna Halprin, Dance as a Healing Art: Returning to Health Through Movement & Imagery (Life Rhythm, 2000; paperback; available through resellers)

Anna Halprin and Rachel Kaplan, Moving Toward Life: Five Decades of Transformational Dance (Wesleyan, 1995). Selections can be found on GoogleBooks.

Anna Halprin with Allan Stinson et al., Circle the Earth Manual: A Guide  for Dancing Peace with the Planet (1987): Excerpts are here

Janice Ross, Anna Halprin, Experience as Dance (University of California Press, 2007). Selections can be found on GoogleBooks.

Julie Bloom, "Still Asking All the Right Questions", The New York Times, April 2, 2010

Lisa Geduldig, "Credo: Anna Halprin", San Francisco Examiner, March 21, 2010

Breath Made Visible on FaceBook

Books, Films, and DVDs (available through Halprin's site)

Dance Heritage Coalition, America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: the First 100 (Anna Halprin Bio)

Planetary Dance (This is a yearly day-long "ritual of healing and community renewal". See 2010 Flickr photostream.)

Obituary for Lawrence Halprin (July 1, 1916 - October 25, 2009)

Film Review at Spirituality & Practice

Below is "Snapshots: Spirit of Place", a collection of snapshots of Performance: Spirit of Place, choreographed and directed by Halprin and performed in Stern Grove Amphitheatre, San Francisco, California, in April 2009, a site designed by Lawrence Halprin. In addition to trained and untrained dancers, the performance involved pedestrians, children, animals, and the site's many environmental elements (trees, water, etc.), both seen and unseen. (Also see Flickr photostream of Stern Grove performances.)

Snapshots:  Spirit of Place from Susan Herrick on Vimeo.

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