July 27, 2021

Choreographer Anna Halprin, the anatomist of emotions

She was beaming, she was rushing. In the middle of the redwood and pine forest north of the San Francisco Bay where she lived as if on the beaches of the Pacific, the American dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin was at home. Magnetic and offensive personality of the contemporary scene, at the head of postmodern dance, she died on May 24, at the age of 100, in Kentfield (California).

Unknown in France before being programmed in 2004 as part of the Festival d’Automne, Anna Halprin, born Ann Schuman on July 13, 1920, in a Jewish family living in Wilmette, a suburb of Chicago (Illinois), gained multiple apprenticeships . As a child, she trained in the fluid and organic dance of Isadora Duncan (1877-1927), joined the company of Charles Weidman (1901-1975) in New York in 1944, then returned to the West Coast.

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From the 1950s onwards, she worked on movement from the notion of “task” which ties together, around daily actions, the usefulness and meaning of the artistic gesture far from any gratuitous aesthetic. “This fundamental notion was born in response to and in contact with the natural environment in which Anna lived and gave workshops., tells the choreographer Anne Collod, close to Halprin. Dancing in the forest or with the ocean led her to radically stand out from the process of creating stylized movements, which was very present at the time in many choreographers. She wanted to break the codes and moved away from narrative and aesthetic questions to give birth to more functional gestures far from the norms. ”

Part banned for twenty years

Have the chance to meet Anna Halprin, in 2004, in her Californian wood and glass house designed by her husband, the architect Lawrence, and participate in an outdoor workshop on her “deck”, a superb wooden tray nestled in a maddening vegetation, gave an immediate access code to the woman and the artist. “Enjoy this place, become part of the forest, of the sky, and you will live a much more intense and wider bodily experience., Halprin said. Here, we do not teach a technique or more or less complex steps. On the contrary, it is about losing your habits to go where you have never ventured … Let yourself be and, above all, no judgment. “

Discovering in the wake, at the Center Pompidou, in Paris, two of his shows resembled a snorkeling dive. Created in 1965, the bewitching Parades and Changes, for nine performers, played on dressing and undressing, revealing a simply beautiful nudity. This sumptuous piece was censored in 1967 and banned for twenty years for nudity and indecency in the United States. In mirror, Intensive Care, Reflections on Death and Dying (2000), interpreted by Halprin herself then 80 years old, tackled the questions of aging, the end of life and death.

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