Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Social Encounters: The Dance of Anna Halprin

Charlene Koonce
Citydance, 1976
Archival photograph, 9 1/16 x 6 3/8 in
Courtesy Anna Halprin

One of the most influential choreographers of experimental dance of the American counterculture, Anna Halprin developed a practice that aimed at personal and social change as much as innovation in the field of dance. She founded the San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop in 1955 and advanced her groundbreaking work in the mid-1960s and 1970s with multi-sensory workshops that transcended the traditional rules of dance and encouraged participants to develop through movement a heightened awareness of themselves, each other, and their environment. From her famous outdoor dance studio at her home in Marin County, where she continues to work today, she teaches both trained and untrained dancers with a process aimed at both art and life. Her students have included many of the leading avant-garde dancers in New York and elsewhere.

West of Center documents three of Halprin's groundbreaking dances, being Parades and Changes, 1965-67, Ceremony of Us, 1969, and Citydance, 1976-77. Also included in the exhibition is Experiments in Environment, 1966-68, a four week event-based workshop that Halprin and her husband Lawrence organized. Bringing together dancers, architects, designers, and educators, the workshop aimed to stimulate new insights into the body in space.

Breath Made Visible is the first feature-length documentary film on the life and career of Anna Halprin. It was released in the US in January 2011.

This is an early clip of Halprin - The Bed - from 1957.

Much of the footage of Anna Halprin in West of Center comes from Connie Beeson, including her films Anna Halprin, A Living Legend c.1970 and Anna Halprin: A Portrait c.1976. This is an article featuring Beeson from Radical Software, a publication founded in 1970. According to the Radical Software website, the publication was the only periodical devoted to video in the early 1970s. In this article, Beeson discusses the work of Halprin and her husband Lawrence.


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