95 and counting

By Ann Murphy


score by Ann Murphy in collaboration with Wayne Hazzard, Shinichi Iova-Koga, and various texts  

    1. 95 Rituals is a collaborative celebration emerging over three months in honor of visionary dance pioneer Anna Halprin, who will be 95 on July 13, 2015. Devised as a set of modular dance and music events, both structured and improvised, 95 Rituals was initiated two years ago when Dancers Group’s Wayne Hazzard invited long-time Halprin collaborator Shinichi Iova-Koga and his physical theater troupe inkBoat to create 95 dances to mark Halprin’s seminal career.
    2. 95 Rituals will unfold across time in myriad places while engaging a host of artists and movement scores. While a few rituals have already quietly transpired, most will unfold between May 1 and July 11 in San Francisco. Each event or collection of events will honor the principles that continue to animate her work. These include improvisation, group process, developing resources, scoring, valueaction, and performing. Using these tools, inkBoat dancers and their collaborators investigate how the body can engage the environment and spark creative encounters with each other and their viewers.
    3. 95: the natural number preceding 96 and following 94; the number in Martin Luther’s 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences; a poem collection by e.e. cummings.
    4. Rite: A particular ceremonial practice, from the Latin ritus, ceremony or habit, custom.
    5. Ritual: A series of actions involving gestures, objects, words, movement, music or other human form of meaning-making enacted in a designated space and created to influence elements and forces in the environment or in experience with the aim of shaping future outcomes for individuals or groups. (adapted from Victor ?Turner’s The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure).
    6. Anna Halprin: Ritual, as I use the term, refers to an artistic process by which people gather and unify themselves in order to confront the challenges of their existence.
    7. Anna, first name, variant of Channah/Hannah, meaning “grace” or “graciousness.”
    8. Halprin, surname, variant of Halpern and Heilbrunn. Place name derived from the city of Heilbronn, a Free Imperial City in Wurttemberg, where a large Jewish population resided during the Middle Ages. Meaning “healthy” or “safe” (heil) ” well” (brenn).
    9. Wayne Hazzard: 95 Rituals is designed to “honor/pay tribute to the amazing, gorgeous, sexy, funny Anna Halprin.”
    10. Shinichi Iova-Koga: The project, initially, was to happen in July around Anna’s birthday as a means to honor Anna, and to be set in Oakland….But it became important to decentralize the experience, so that it not become an object in one space viewed from one angle. We decided it would become installations of various decentered performances taking on the perspective of a three-ring circus.
    11. Wayne: I feel like I’ve known Anna all my life. Yet, as a kid who grew up in a blue collar environment with no arts (but lots of parks and beaches, hiking and, of course, television), I first read about Anna and her work at San Jose State University. College was also my introduction to dance. That was in the late 70s and it wasn’t until the mid 90s that I would meet Anna.
    12. Anna Halprin, née Ann Schuman (from the Middle high German “shuoch,” shoe + man) was raised in suburban Chicago and became passionate about the organic mechanics of movement; rebellious toward the conformism inherent in most mid-20th century modern dance practice; and radicalized by exposure to members of the German Bauhaus in Cambridge, MA, and to Beat artists and the counterculture in the Bay Area.
    13. Janice Ross: “…describing herself as a cup breaker in the world of modern dance…[t]he teacups she has shattered are procedural, involving how a dance can be made, the role of personal history in shaping dance content, the role of spectators, and the degree to which the choreographer takes risks, experiments, gives up control.” (from Anna Halprin: Experience As Dance, xiii.)
    14. Wayne: I knew Anna’s 95th birthday would be in 2015, so I had this idea of asking an artist to create 95 dances for Anna Halprin. It would be for our commissioning program ONSITE [which provides performances free to the public]…with someone who would be interested in questions like scale, moving in non-conventional spaces, addressing legacy.
    15. Wayne: The first artist we brought in to talk about this idea was Shinichi, and I asked: ‘Would you be interested in making 95 Dances for Anna?’ He took a bit of time to reflect on the question, and in true Shinichi fashion, with a sly grin and sparkle in his eye, he said yes! We all laughed and were off. We spent the next two years discussing how we would collaborate and fundraise for the project.
    16. Wayne: inkBoat has been a key player from the first conversation. Shinichi is conceiving how the work is to be created and he wanted the title to reflect the issue of 95, of scale, of Anna’s birthday, and that Anna thinks of dance as ritual.
    17. Shinichi: Part of Anna’s legacy and part of her imperative is for others not to look like Anna. We need to look like ourselves. So we reference Anna and we depart from Anna. But fundamentally, it’s an inkBoat work.
    18. Wayne: I met Anna for the first time in the lobby of the [Dancers Group] space on 22nd Street, and she changed my world that day: her energy, humility, enthusiasm for being in the festival. We discussed putting up archive images in the lobby and I was like a star-struck fan in awe of her history, tenacity and artistry.
    19. Shinichi: There’s no way to make a piece that encapsulates Anna Halprin. Just no way. What we CAN do is this: examine the intentions of her life, her effect, really, on the dance community… and on the art community in general. There are different Annas, honestly. Where she is right now as she approaches age 95 is different from where she was when she was 30, 40, or 50 years old.
    20. Wayne: Anna has been involved in the project from the beginning. We have had discussions with Tamalpa [the Halprins’ arts organization] and others, too. Shinichi is also working on a score project, and a book….
    21. Ritual 1, “Thicket”: Shinichi and Dana worked with Mari Osani (Noguchi Taiso teacher), witnessed by Anna Halprin on the Mills College campus.
    22. Shinichi: A number of our preparatory rituals in May and June 2015—numbers 1 through 70—are public experiments, where inkBoat and friends test out ideas.
    23. Ritual 2, “Future Numbers”: this was initiated by scores from Larry Ochs and John Zorn and performed by Rova Saxophone Quartet with Shinichi, Dana Iova-Koga and Dohee Lee.
    24. Ritual 3, “Curling”: 3 derived from John Zorn’s composition of the same name and was evanescent and hidden in the recesses of the Mills campus, where dancers marched to the lake, stripped down, covered themselves in mud and laid across rocks and other bodies.
    25. Shinichi: Soon after my daughter Zoe was born I did a solo influenced by her that was reviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle. Anna read it and asked our mutual friend, Sherwood Chen, to introduce us. He did….soon I found myself at Anna’s having lunch at her house, when she asked: ‘Where did you learn to make work like that?’ I didn’t have a very good answer….In that moment I had the feeling that the way I make work has been influenced by this lady.
    26. Shinichi: If Anna is the rock that drops into the pool, we are the ripples in the pool, and ripples can also generate new ripples.
    27. In 1968 Lawrence Halprin fully realized the RSVP Cycles, a feedback loop, which involves assessing resources (R), making a score (S), evaluating the action (V), and performance (P). It is designed to describe and refine process as the material of performance and created by Halprin in order to notate his wife’s “new theater.”  (Ross, 253-254.)
    28. Lawrence Halprin: “Scores are symbolizations of processes which extend   over time….They are ‘nonjudgmental’…”  A score is usually “graphic and precedes the fact….” (The RSVP Cycles: Creative Processes in the Human Environment, 1)
    29. The performance is the result of the score.  
    30. Anna Halprin: “We have been alienated from the natural world. We need to find a way to reenter.” (from Returning Home, 2003.)
    31. The Halprin dance deck is an outdoor stage space that thrusts into the treetops on the hill below the family house on Mt Tamalpais.
    32. Mt. Tamalpais: Miwok for “west hill,’ sacred to the native peoples, and also known as the Sleeping Maiden. It is part the Coastal Range but stands apart from it.
    33. Shinichi: Anna asked me to be Associate Director on Spirit of Place (another ONSITE project, 2009) by calling me up and saying: ‘Shinichi, all of my collaborators are dead. Will you be my collaborator?’ That’s how it began.
    34. For Anna the open/closed continuum of a score is measured from 1 to 10, with 1 an open improvisation and 10 being fixed down to the last detail. Iova-Koga says that “Anna like[s] to operate in the zone of 5.”
    35. Shinichi: Two movers are joining 95 Rituals from Berlin. Two are traveling from Seattle. One artist is coming from Seoul….
    36. Ritual 4-6, “ascent,” on May 1, noon, is part of the free Rotunda Dance Series, where Dana and Shinichi perform duets choreographed by Mills faculty Molissa Fenley and Wanjiru Kamuyu, with inkBoat’s Dohee Lee, Suki O’Kane, Jason Ditzian and others at City Hall at noon. This ritual will be full of “islands of repeatability.”
    37. Ritual 7, “words.” May 21, 6pm at the Museum of Performance + Design in a symposium on legacy with Wayne, Shinichi and invited guests.
    38. Ritual 8-27, “market.” Sunday, May 31, 11:30 am, Fort Mason Market and Firehouse with Yuko Kasei, Sten Rudstrom, Heekyung Cho, Joshua Kohl Nishimura, Dohee Lee, Dana Iova-Koga, Suki O’Kane, Shinichi Iova-Koga
    39. “Lost Rituals.” June 14, 5pm at inkGround, Matteole Valley, Petrolia.
    40. June 27, Dance on Land San Francisco, 9am – 12 noon, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (lobby) inkBoat’s first urban Dance on Land workshop in San Francisco, led by Shinichi Iova-Koga, Dana Iova-Koga and inkBoat members.
    41. Ritual 50-70, “conjunction.” Sunday, June 21, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, TBA. Prototype for the final performance.
    42. 95 Rituals, July 7 and 11, TBA, SF.
    43. Shinichi: Friends and colleagues will offer scores, or seeds for scores.
    44. Janice: “Santayana’s message to Californians was that their environment offered alternative ways of seeing nature and society, and, most critically, our relationship to both––that we are not the center of the universe. The Halprins would come to learn this as well, and their work would point to a different dynamic between environment, artist, and art, in which the individual is no longer at the center of the world.” (72)
    45. John Cage: “…theatre is something which engages both the eye and the ear. The two public senses are seeing and hearing….The reason I want to make my definition of theatre that simple is so one could view everyday life itself as theatre.” (Mariellen Sanford, ed. Happenings and Other Acts, 51)
    46. Allan Kaprow: “These events, of course, are themselves the meaning of life. Inasmuch as lifelike art participates in its everyday source, purposely intending to be like life, it becomes interpretations, hence “meaning.” But it is not life in general that is meaningful; an abstraction can’t be experienced. Only life in particular can be––some tangible aspect of it serving as a representative, for example, a ripe summer tomato.” (Mariellen R. Sanford, Happenings and Other Acts, 238)
    47. 95 Rituals is a collaborative celebration.

47.5 to 95 Repeat in any order.

This article appeared in the May 2015 issue of In Dance.

Ann Murphy, a long-time Bay Area dance critic, is Assistant Professor and Chair of the Dance Department at Mills College in Oakland.