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.)
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.