Halprin, Anna (Schuman) (1920--) By Ross, Janice
A dancer, choreographer, community leader, and educator, Anna Halprin helped to pioneer what she called “experimental dance” in the 1960s. After training with the modern dance performer and choreographer Doris Humphrey, she turned to dance education, fusing these dual tracks of performance and pedagogy into a practice where dance changed the dancer. Her experimental dance theater events helped prefigure happenings, performance art, and experimental theater works. Located at the boundaries between art and life, healing, ritual, and performance, Halprin created participatory site-specific dances, art events situated in the midst of urban life. Breaking down the boundaries between spectator and performer, her dance events deliberately reconfigured socially marginalized individuals as the subject and medium of performance, including people with HIV/AIDS and the aged. Beginning in the early 1960s, Halprin started offering dance workshops on the “dance deck,” the dramatic outdoor wooden dance studio designed in 1953 by Arch Lauterer, the theater designer, and Lawrence Halprin, Halprin’s husband and a renowned urban designer. Halprin’s students in these early years included several who would become founders of dance minimalism, including Simone Forti, Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, and Meredith Monk—artists who were inspired by her precedent for framing pedestrian actions as dance, relinquishing control, and embracing difficult personal history as legitimate subject matter for dance.