Anna Halprin

Anna Halprin, City Dance, 1977, public performance at the Embarcadero, San Francisco, © Anna Halprin, photo: Charlene Koonce (published in: Sigrid Gareis, Georg Schöllhammer, and Peter Weibel (eds.), Moments. Eine Geschichte der Performance in 10 Akten, ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Walther König, Köln, 2013)

Anna Halprin is considered one of the most important pioneers in the area of conceptual and interdisciplinary work in contemporary dance. Her Jewish heritage, and thus belonging to a minority, has made her especially sensitive to socially and politically precarious situations, both on a personal and a global level. She conceives dance as a collective process of creation as well as a ritual and communal force, which can serve as a means for personal, social, and political transformation. From 1977–1979, she initiated four City Dances in San Francisco, which were a combination of personal dances by “professional” dancers, rehearsed dances by the San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop for people of all ages and backgrounds, and spontaneous dances, music, and poetry by members of the public. A score was published in advance in a newspaper. After the murders of Mayor George Moscone and City Councilor, Harvey Milk, in 1979, Halprin sought to reconcile the city with a City Dance. Her dance series Circle the Earth (from 1986 onwards) and Planetary Dance (from 1987 onwards) were performed all over the world as rituals of peace. They addressed humankind’s connection with the natural environment and were partly inspired by the events in Chernobyl. In the 1980s, her focus shifted to confronting the recent crises of HIV/AIDS. Her globally performed dances in public spaces are an early example of using artistically inspired, collective forms of expression for social and political change.