Anna Halprin teaching, 1957

Ted Streshinsky, Courtesy DM Archives

Happy 100th Birthday, Anna Halprin!

July 13, 2020, marks the 100th birthday of Anna Halprin. In 1955, disillusioned with New York City's modern dance scene, Halprin returned to her home just north of San Francisco and began experimenting. On the outdoor deck designed for her by Lawrence Halprin (her husband) and Arch Lauterer, she pioneered task-based improvisation. Among the students who made early pilgrimages to her workshops were Simone Forti, Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown, who further developed these ideas in New York City.


Meanwhile, Halprin continued teaching, developing "happenings" and applying her dancemaking approach to social-justice issues through her San Francisco Dancers' Workshop.

Courtesy DM Archives

Anna Halprin in a costume designed by her husband, Lawrence Halprin, for her Emek, 1951

In the April 1963 issue of Dance Magazine, she said: "I've discovered that if you let people alone in a situation the mind doesn't inhibit, the body will often go automatically into movement with an intricate, almost primitive skill. I've noticed this frequently in children's classes when students, absorbed in creating a dance, will discover for themselves complicated movements I wouldn't dream of teaching them... There are things the body understands which can't be explained verbally."

Her later work was concerned with using movement as a tool for healing. She received a Dance Magazine Award in 2004, and continued to travel, teach and create into her 90s.

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