Dancing the environment

Anna Halprin - Between singularities

According to American dancer Anna Halprin, art - and dance in particular - is both the expression and the motor of in-common experiences.

Improvisation is post-modern dance's leitmotiv. As it enables “to develop a body of work built upon dancing together and being together”, and it facilitates the fusion between the group and each of the dancers’ own experiences. Such a process “demands a commitment to follow the flow of spontaneity and change”. [1] Using improvisation as a major component of their choreographies, American dancer Anna Halprin and her husband, landscape designer Lawrence Halprin, started a series of experimental and transdisciplinary workshops which first took place from June 27 to July 22 1966 in Northern California. Called Experiments in Environment, the series of collaborative performances were based on participation, exploration and improvisation and managed to engage a diverse audience made of architects, dancers, artists and landscape designers. During these gatherings they reflected on issues such as music, ecology, graphic design, lighting and choreography.

"Dance is both the expression and the motor of in-common experiences."

Each activity - from collective building projects on the beach, to blindfolded walks in the forest and staged explorations of a city/body - was meant to connect with the environment and the other participants, “to break down the aesthetic barriers” and “to narrow the gap between art and life” [2] by integrating personal feelings, beliefs and experiences within the performance.

01_Driftwood beach summer workshop Sea Ranch, California, July 4 1966; 02_Blindfold walk, Kentfield, California, July 2 1968; 03_A wooden structure made during the Driftwood beach summer workshop in July 1966; All Images © Lawrence Halprin collection the architectural archives university of Pennsylvania

[1] Carmen Beuchat, Suzanne Harris, Cynthia Hedstrom, Rachel Lew and Mary Overlie, “The Natural History of American Dancers”, 2-6 May 1975, in FOOD – Exhibition catalogue, White Columns, New York, curated by Catherine Morris, 1998, p. 43;
[2] Anna Halprin, Rachel Kaplan, Moving Toward Life: Five Decades of Transformational Dance, Wesleyan University Press, Hanover, 1995; Ursula Schorn, Ronit Land, Gabriele Wittmann, Anna Halprin: Dance - Process - Form, Jessica Kingsley Publisher, London & Philadelphia, 2015; 

Published: 22 Dec. 2016

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