Halprin, a revolutionary force in dance and performance since the 1930’s is known for her work that challenges social norms, encourages healing and recovery, and unites diverse communities. She understands that movement allows us to change our physical presence within a space, our relationships to one another, and our relation to the greater world.
In 1965, Anna Halprin was arrested for “indecent exposure” for her piece, Parades and Changes that shocked audiences when performers maintained eye-contact with the audience while slowly undressing. Today, Halprin says that she created ”undressing” simply because she found the act of undressing interesting, in that there are many levels and movement patterns involved in this process. Dressing and undressing is something that every person does every single day, so who would think that doing so before a live audience would evoke such strong passion? The simple act of undressing, revealed the social taboo against public nudity, and also perhaps the fear of intimate connection between strangers; of the human body revealed in its most complete and simple form. This everyday activity, when performed as “dance” created a huge public outcry that called into question social stigmas and prejudices.
In the 1960′s, Halprin challenged segregation by creating a dance score in which African American and white dancers performed together, in tight embraces and loving duets. In photos of this piece, the African American man has tears running down his face, as the simple act of moving with a white person was such an expression of freedom, at the time. Through the performance Halprin challenged the social segregation of the era and offered a suggestion of a different reality. We are all the same. We all move, cry, feel.
Halprin understands that shared community movement evokes change. In an introduction to her book, Planetary Dance: The Story, Halprin writes, “When enough people move together in a common pulse with a common purpose, an amazing force, an ecstatic rhythm eventually takes over. People stop moving as individuals and begin to move as if they were a part of a single body, not in a uniform motion but in deeply interrelated ways”. People have been dancing and moving together in cultures across the world since the beginning of time- to bring rain, peace, to mourn, to celebrate. the Planetary Dance, in which diverse members of the community, dancers and non-dancers, coalesce to dance and run to the beat of a drum “declaring commitment to a peaceful healthy planet”. Halprin has performed Planetary Dance in many public locations throughout the world, and hosts this dance on Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County at Sunrise in June of each year.
Halprin’s commitment to site-specific performance is apparent in the diverse and unconventional spaces in which she has performed her work over the course of her career. She has danced in city plazas, museums and outdoor spaces throughout the US and the world. Most recently, Halprin showed her work Parades and Changes at the Berkeley Art Museum, in March 2013, where she explored the site-specific possibilities of concrete architecture and echoing empty space. For this piece, Halprin invited students and community members to run in a grand finale running circle around a central drummer, expressing commitment to peaceful and creative future. Halprin’s outdoor dance deck at her Mountain Home Studio in Kentfield has inspired much of her work. It has also served as “an exploratory haven” for many creative visionaries including Merce Cunningham, John Cage and Robert Morris.Anna Halprin and her students will dance anywhere® on March 28, 2014.