IN MY OFFICE RESIDE A RANGE OF BOOKS that fill me with ideas of how to think about concepts like community engagement, management, data collection, and such. And of course, I have books filled with exquisite pictures of dancers, and others brimming with thoughtful texts investigating a variety of traditions and topics; some, but not all, dance-focused.
One of my favorites, Experience as Dance, is Janice Ross’ exceptional tome, which lovingly details the life and work of dance pioneer and maverick Anna Halprin.
Janice’s page-turning biography is a primer for considering concepts of dance’s more modernist experiments and ideas, and how these now-often-taken-for-granted notions are fully imbedded in most dancemakers’ palettes. The book chronicles the questions Anna, and others, had about dance’s conventions, which have shaped what we now know as post-modern dance. While revisiting this book, I was reminded of her many creative periods that were deeply impacted by the politics of the time. With her, in the moment, the wisdom of consistently believing in the healing powers of movement was shared in her stalwart belief that creative actions change our internal energies into points of departure to move forward, and heal not only the individual but also the world’s many ills.
This larger than life person is a humble woman who continues to teach and make work into her mid 90’s. For the past two years, Dancers’ Group has been involved in developing a project to add to the many celebrations and tributes marking her 95th birthday, on July 13, 2015. Our project started simply as the charge to make 95 dances for Anna Halprin, and as we know, the simplest ideas are the hardest to implement. The endeavor to pay tribute to her turned into a commission of a new work by Shinichi Iova-Koga that will culminate in performances this July at the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco, with a special event this month at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on June 21, which is free to the public, as are all of the 95 Rituals events.
With a website dedicated to the project—95rituals.org— you can find locations and times for events that are being produced by Dancers’ Group. The Tamalpa Institute—the highly regarded school that Anna co-founded with her daughter Daria, which integrates movement, visual arts, performance techniques, and therapeutic practices—is organizing celebrations of Anna across the world including remounting seminal works.
This month, Sue Heinemann offers additional insights into Anna’s storied history and talks about her current projects that reveal an artist not slowing down anytime soon. To compliment our honoring of this artist we have asked for community members to sum up their thoughts about Anna, in exactly 95 words, providing proof that the poetic impact of Anna’s work has resonated in so many.
The words ‘pioneer’ and ‘maverick’ are fitting to describe Anna, in addition to so many artists, especially the numerous gifted women in our community who bring new opportunities to our field. These women, who are not always acknowledged for their pioneering work, have helped shape the notions of who can dance, expanded the definition of a dancer, and constructed works that enlarge the interpretation of dance in thrilling ways.
Pioneering opportunities abound. Yee-haw!