Anna Halprin Turns 92 Today!

I think Anna Halprin is immortal. She was there before the beginning and will be there after the end. The beginning of what? Of postmodern dance, or improvisation as performance, of collaborating with wild artists in other fields, of dancing to heal communities.

She still has energy, insight, and curiosity. In this “Teacher’s Wisdom” she recalled how when she studied anatomy, human muscles looked like fish to her. She also talks about the need for each of us to integrate our polarities, our opposites, and become part of an environment.

We can see her in action in a wonderful documentary on her called Breath Made Visible. I wrote about the film in this blog post, in which I said that Halprin is a national treasure.

The photo above is from a piece Halprin choreographed called Prophetess in 1955, probably performed at the ANTA Theater in NYC. She told me that she was rehearsing in Martha Graham’s studio, and Graham helped her make the headress. And it turned out that they were both prophetesses.

Long Live Anna Halprin! —Wendy Perron

 

Photo: Anna Halprin, 1955, by Imogen Cunningham from Dance Magazine Archives, reprinted with permission of Imogen Cunningham Trust, at www.imogencunningham.com

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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