3 of Postmodern Choreographer Anna Halprin's Most Iconic Works

Halprin in her work The Prophetess (1947), about Deborah, the only female judge in the Bible. Halprin's Jewish heritage guided her morality and, early on, her choreography. Photo by Ernest Braun, courtesy of Dance Magazine archives

In both Anna Halprin's workshops and choreographic ventures, the postmodern choreographer used improv-based exercises that brought dancers' own individual movement impulses to their attention. Halprin made use of the environment surrounding her home, having dancers hike and tumble in nature. Now 98, she still teaches from her home in Marin County.

Here are three of Halprin's most iconic works.

Parades and Changes (1965)

In her most famous work, dancers perform pedestrian actions, such as walking, with heightened awareness in a ritualistic manner. Most notably, dancers undress and redress slowly—a choreographic choice that led to a warrant for Halprin's arrest when the piece premiered in NYC. Over the years, Parades and Changes has been set and reset many times to suit different performance venues and bring awareness to a variety of social and political issues.

Planetary Dance (1981)

Open to people of all ages and abilities, Halprin's Planetary Dance has been performed annually for more than 35 years in outdoor spaces around the world—most famously at Mount Tamalpais. It was created to promote peace and harmony between people and the earth. In each reiteration, the community that participates in the work chooses a theme that reflects a local concern. Dancers walk or run in concentric circles to represent a mandala in motion.

Intensive Care: Reflections on Death and Dying (2000)

After years of using movement as a method of healing, and directly following her husband's monthlong hospitalization, Halprin created this piece as a choreographic exploration on the theme of death. In heartbreaking imagery, elderly dancers dressed in white hospital gowns slowly progress forward before collapsing into the arms of younger dancers. In another section, they roll and spin on swivel chairs looking lost and grabbing for one another.

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Cynthia Oliver in her office. Photo by Natalie Fiol

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Clockwise from top left: Courtesy Ford Foundation; Christian Peacock; Nathan James, Courtesy Gibson; David Gonsier, courtesy Marshall; Bill Zemanek, courtesy King; Josefina Santos, courtesy Brown; Jayme Thornton; Ian Douglas, courtesy American Realness

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