press release

SAN FRANCISCO, December 13, 2007—Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) celebrates Bay Area legend Anna Halprin, a pioneer of postmodern dance and performance, with an audio/visual installation titled Anna Halprin: At the Origin of Performance from Fri, Jan 18—Sat, Apr 5, 2008. The exhibition uses archival documents, photos, films, sound recordings, scores, press cuttings, and illustrated partitions to highlight her contributions to the fields of dance, theater, music and visual arts from the 1950s to the present. At the Origin of Performance is part of YBCA’s Making Peace series, one of the three Big Ideas that guide this season’s programming. Making Peace features artists who having glimpsed the abyss—culturally, politically or personally—forge a path ahead with great optimism. Halprin, diagnosed with cancer in 1972, decided to dedicate her art to life by working with cancer and AIDS patients to integrate creativity into daily existence through what she calls the life-art process. "As many of us struggle to find our spiritual identity, we can, I believe, return to dance to recover an ancient tradition that will serve us in today's culture,” says Halprin. “Our connection to the earth and to one another as forms of the earth is our next crucial step. I believe this is the wonderful possibility for dance today." Halprin is known for blurring boundaries between art forms, between professional and amateur dancers, and between the performer and the audience. Her gift to postmodern dance was the “task,” the idea that everyday activities were worthy of exploration. Like Marcel Duchamp and John Cage, Halprin showed us how extraordinary the ordinary can be. Looking to create original movement beyond the stylized dances of the time, Halprin began experimenting with improvisation in the 1950s. She collaborated with numerous individuals, including: Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy; her husband, environmental designer Lawrence Halprin, and others. Her radical improvisational experiments took place in dance studios, performance stages, urban city streets and natural outdoor environments. During one notable performance, she took her San Francisco company outside the theater where they danced on the street wearing ordinary clothing. During another work, dancers repeated the movements of dressing and undressing in slow motion. The exhibition was produced by the City of Lyon/Musée d’ART Contemporain.

ABOUT ANNA HALPRIN Born in Illinois on July 13, 1920, Anna Halprin settled in Kentfield, near San Francisco, where she still currently resides. Her work is influenced by the sun and natural environment of California. She developed a multidisciplinary technique that came to be called “performance art.” As a student at the University of Wisconsin, Anna participated in dissections of the human body and gained a deep understanding of how it functions. In 1942, while living in New York, she met John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, and other avant-garde artists. Throughout the years, both in urban environments and in nature, Anna has developed dance rituals that allow people- both dancers and non-dancers- to find meaningful creative response to their life experiences. Now in her mid-eighties, Anna is still dancing and exploring her relationship with nature and her life experiences through movement. As she explains, “I like working with sensuality, sexuality, conflict, game, everyday life: all things that were not allowed in the field of the dance.”

Anna Halprin: At the Origin of Performance