Fifty Years Ago in Dance Magazine: Anna Halprin
Anna Halprin was always ahead of her time. She combined community, environment and improvisation in daring experiments. Driftwood City, a collaborative project that came out of a summer workshop she co-led with her architect husband Lawrence Halprin, landed on our cover in November 1966. They brought dancers and architects together to explore ways they could collaborate at various sites in both urban and natural environments. Jack Anderson’s cover story, “Dancers and Architects Build Kinetic Environments,” describes some of these experiments.
For one event, 40 of this interdisciplinary group infiltrated Union Square in San Francisco. At the stroke of 3 pm, they each walked slowly to the center of the square, inflated a balloon, let it go or gave it to a child, and walked away. Call it the first flash mob. But it was just another example of Anna Halprin’s passion for bringing dance into public life.
Another experiment, with the goal of finding “fresh sensory experience,” was a full day of silence—totally free of talking and writing. Imagine how that would go down in this day of iPhones!
Halprin’s belief that everyone can dance has been a signature of her choreography and teaching. “I want to make theater a shared experience,” she says in this article, “between performer and audience with content which deeply affects our sense of values.”
Automobile event, pictured in Nov. 1966. John Graham of San Francisco Dancers' Workshop partnering Volkswagen, photo Paul Ryan
She developed a method of healing through movement and drawing after she healed her own cancer in her 50s. She’s helped individuals with terminal diseases and she’s helped whole communities move toward well being.
Two years after the initial Driftwood City, the Halprins gave a seven-day workshop to rebuild it in Sea Ranch, California, as Driftwood Village Rebuilt. The California Historical Society recently had an exhibit focusing on this workshop.
Driftwood Village Rebuilt—Day 6, Lawrence Halprin Collection
Halprin, now 96, is still going strong as a teacher and we’ve tried to keep up. Read her “Teacher’s Wisdom” here, and see a follow up in my recent blog. Her Parades and Changes (1965-67) earned her a place in our "Shocking Dances of the Past” story for its use of nudity, and in our November 2012 Women’s Issue, she was profiled in “Nine Who Dared,” our round-up of particularly courageous women in the dance world.
We commend Halprin on 50 years (and more) of bravery, interdisciplinary exploration, and community and individual healing work. Long live Anna Halprin!
(Thanks to Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in Fine Arts and the Architectural Archives of the U of Pennsylvania for use of above photo.)
"Besides the stage, baking is my other happy place," says New York City Ballet corps member Jenelle Manzi.
Four years ago, she thought her baking days were over when she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Manzi had been dealing with pain, frequent illness and joint inflammation for nearly 10 years. Once she cut out gluten, Manzi gradually started to feel better, noticing a transformation in how her body felt and functioned. She found her joints were less inflamed, and she got sick less often.
New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan and American Ballet Theatre soloist Cassandra Trenary spend every day making their hard work look effortless and graceful both in the studio and onstage. That's exactly what makes them the perfect spokesmodels for the dance-inspired activewear line, Belle Force.
To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we excavated some of our favorite hidden gems from the DM Archives—images that capture a few of the moments in time we've documented over the decades.
This image was captured during a 1978 New York City Ballet tour that took the company to Copenhagen—home turf for Adam Luders (right), who trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and briefly danced with the company before joining NYCB as a principal dancer in 1975. Next to Luders is (of course) George Balanchine, in conversation with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. And looking on with a smile? NYCB's current ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
On March 8, 2016, Rami Shafi found himself inspired to film an impromptu dance video of his best friend, Aaron Moses Robin, improvising on Gay St. in New York City's Greenwich Village. Thus was born Pedestrian Wanderlust, a collection of dance videos that has grown to include a monthly improv jam.
Shafi works with anyone who wants to take part in the project, filming videos in locations chosen by the dancers and later adding music. The videos are shot on Shafi's iPhone in one take and, other than the starting and ending points, are entirely improvised. The editing afterwards—including the music choice—is minimal. "I don't like to edit too much. It's just what it is," says Shafi. "I usually can do the editing on the train ride home."
Many people see dance and choreography as separate pursuits, or view choreography as a dance career's second act. For some dancers, however, performing and choreographing inform one another. "That's just the kind of choreographer I am. I feel things so deeply in my physicality. I have to do it to know it," says Jodi Melnick, who is a prolific performer of her own work. She also maintains an active practice as a performer for other choreographers: Throughout her career, she's worked with Trisha Brown, Twyla Tharp, Tere O'Connor and Donna Uchizono, to name a few.
Though a dual career can be fulfilling, simultaneously inhabiting the roles of dancer and choreographer requires focus, organization and a great deal of energy.
New York City is getting an embarrassment of riches this week—riches of the Emerald, Diamonds and Rubies variety. The Bolshoi Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet and New York City Ballet will be sharing the stage at Lincoln Center to present George Balanchine's Jewels in celebration of the iconic ballet's 50th anniversary.
One of the many stars we're excited to see is Olga Smirnova, our June 2014 cover girl, who will be performing the lead in "Diamonds" as well as the role of Bianca in Jean-Christophe Maillot's Taming of the Shrew next week.
I have always been extremely dramatic. I think "extremely" might even be an understatement. As a child, I was constantly in costume. Never clothes. Always a costume.
When I was 8 we moved into a new house, and took a home video to send to my dad's family. My siblings were performing a song for the camera. I desperately wanted to join them, but they got annoyed and said no. In the video I run out of the room crying hysterically, and you can hear my dad saying, "It's okay, Sam, you can dance for the camera later."
This is followed by about 45 minutes of me dancing. Music changes, style changes, costume changes, the works. Dance was, and still is, the best way I know how to express myself.