Pioneer choreographer and dancer Anna Halprin died at her home in Kentfield, Calif. On May 24 at the age of one hundred. The news was announced by his daughter Daria Halprin on Facebook. Known for pioneering what is now called postmodern dance early in her broad career and for her participatory choreography involving audiences, Halprin has dedicated her life to “expanding dance to be a part of life” , using it to explore the social conditions and importance of fellowship as well as healing, teaching the form to the elderly and to those with AIDS and cancer. In 1966
Born Ann Dorothy Schulman in Winnetka, Illinois, in 1920, Halprin was studying dance at the University of Wisconsin when she met her future husband and sometimes collaborator, the famous landscape architect Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009), with whom she was remained married for nearly seventy years. years. After a stint in New York City, the couple moved to California in the late 1940s, in a move that was considered highly unusual given the location where New York City was the center of the dance world. Halprin established the San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop in 1955, whose members – including future luminaries Trisha Brown, Simone Forti, Meredith Monk and Yvonne Rainer – rehearsed on a “dance platform” her husband had built in front of their home in Kentfield, just north of San Francisco. Working with artists such as composers John Cage, Terry Riley and LaMonte Young, the group has performed in unusual venues including rooftops, gymnasiums and public parks.
Deeming modern dance of the time to be too demanding and subject to rules, Halprin in his choreography focused on simple, natural movements that were often improvised. One of the first works, 1961 Five-legged stool, featured dancers performing random tasks in a spontaneous, unscripted fashion. In the years 1965 Parades and changes, perhaps one of his best-known works, the dancers have performed naked, dressing and undressing on several occasions; when it premiered at Hunter College in New York in 1967, the work was quickly banned and arrest warrants were issued against its participants, including composer Morton Subotnick, who had written the score. Us ceremony (1969) centered on the theme of unity, bringing together black and white dancers – an advertising plan graced the cover of this magazine in September 2018 – while Planetary dance (1987), a community dance intended for groups of different sizes, was structured so that it could be performed almost anywhere by almost anyone. Rocking seniors (2005) called on a large group of older people to perform in rocking chairs outside.
âAs a leader, I’m going to start a business,â Halprin explained to Practical art in 2013. âI tell them what to do, but I don’t tell them how to do it. This way I bring more resources together, and as the outside eye, I can shape those resources in a way that satisfies my aesthetic. In their choices, however, you see real people, not dancers trained with stylized movements. When the performers are so engaged and so authentic in themselves, the audience feels it. I honestly believe that when the public sees activities that are so important to the person doing them, they are affected. “
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Halprin led a series of workshops with her husband called âExperiences in the Environment,â which brought together dancers, architects and artists in various settings to explore the creativity of the group in relation to the environment. In 1970, Halprin used a grant from the NEA to set up the Reach-Out program, with the aim of providing minority artists with the opportunity to teach and perform dance. Following a battle with cancer in the early 1970s, she began to focus on dance as a healing tool, designing workshops aimed at helping people with cancer or AIDS, which she led through exercises in body awareness and self-visualization. In 1978, with her daughter Daria, she founded the Tamalpa Institute in San Rafael, California, to teach the ritual of movement and to train students in various therapeutic techniques integrating dance and theater.
Over a career spanning more than six decades, Halprin has choreographed some 150 dances and written three books. Among other prizes, she received the Doris Duke Impact Award, the Isadora Duncan Dance Award, the French Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the NEFA NEA American Masterpieces Award, the California Arts Council Lifetime Achievement Award and the Samuel H. Scripps Lifetime Achievement Award in Modern Dance from the American Dance Festival.