Anna Halprin
Parades and Changes, 2013
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum
February 15, 16, 17, 2013.


By John Held, Jr.



The Cast of Parades and Changes, 2013. Photo Credit: Pak Han

Peter Selz and Anna Halprin, 2013. Photo Credit: John Held, Jr.


Here’s a true Anna Halprin story that you couldn’t make up. Last year, I picked her up at her residence at Mountain Home in Kentfield, and drove her to visit our mutual friend Jeff Berner in Dillon Beach. I’ve always thought Anna, through her dance scoring in the late 1950s, paved the wave for the instructional events of Fluxus. This compatible connection with Jeff Berner, who was a George Maciunas sanctioned member of Fluxus, leverages my contention.


While I barbequed oysters in the fog outside, Anna sat with a small group of woman inside. At the end of the afternoon, I went to gather Anna for our departure, and when she went off to get her wrap, I asked the women seated at the table if they had enjoyed their conversation with Mrs. Halprin. “Mrs. Halprin! She said her name was Anna and that she was a dancer, but she was so modest I never thought it could be.” When Anna returned, she continued her story. “I was sitting in the front row of Parades and Changes in Stockholm, Sweden. I was pregnant with my daughter [her daughter was seated next to her]. It was such a meaningful event for me and now I can thank you after all these years.” That was in 1965. Her daughter was 47.


At ninety-four, Anna Halprin has been meaningful to many people over many years. She’s a dance pioneer…yadda, yadda, yadda, the story so well known that I dare not repeat its discourse other than say that had she stayed immersed in the New York dance scene with her connections to Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Merce Cunningham, musicians John Cage, Terry Riley, Lamonte Young, Morton Subotnik, and her early appearance on Broadway with Bert Lahr, she’d be a nationwide household name.


Squirreled away in secluded Marin altered her reputation and approach to dance. A warrant for her arrest was issued after her performance of Parades and Changes in New York City in 1967, and put off by the chilly reception by police and critics alike, Anna was content to remain in the Bay Area developing a new dance language that is still controversial and unassimilated in the canon of post-postmodern dance.



Rehearsal for Anna Halprin: Parades and Changes, February 15–17, 2013 at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Pictured in the foreground: Shinichi Iova-Koga. Photo: Pak Han


Parades and Changes was developed in workshop soon after Halprin moved into her now legendary former quarters at 321 Divisadero Street, the home of her San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop. It was a commissioned piece for the Stockholm contemporary Music Festival scheduled for September 5, 6, and 7, 1965. By the spring of the year, Anna and the Dancers’ workshop gave two preview performances in Fresno and in San Francisco. The musical score was created by Morton Subotnick, who was associated with the San Francisco Tape Music Center, which shared space with the dancers at 321 Divisadero.


While in Sweden presenting Parades and Changes, the dancers were filmed by Swedish television for national broadcast, which garnered significant attention. The work debated in New York in April 1967 at Hunter College. The main dance critic for The New York Times, Clive Barnes, wrote a mostly disparaging review, containing the dismissive line, “I mean they remove every last stich of clothing, and boys and girls together are as rip-roaring naked as berries.” But his tone changed when having witnessed the paper-tearing segment. “Fantastic shapes evolve, paper sculptures mingling fascinatingly with nude bodies. The result is not only beautiful but somehow liberating as well.”


Parades and Changes marked an ending and a new beginning for Anna. Nowhere is this more pointedly manifested than in the sequence of disrobing, for which the work is so notoriously allied. The score calls for two acts of undressing: an initial act of slow disrobing with the performers making eye contact with the audience, and a second round in which the performers pair up and mirror each other in the removal of clothing while maintaining eye contact with one another.



Parades and Changes, 2013. Photo Credit: Pak Han


In development Parades and Changes was paired with another work, Apartment 6, which was also presented during the 1965 European tour. “The subject of Apartment 6 is ourselves,” Anna explained to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter. “All the while the play will be real. That is, there will be no play.” It was a further investigation of the gestalt practices she underwent with therapist Fritz Perls, who had been an influence on the disrobing sequence in Parades and Changes, as well.


This period of Halprin’s work, beginning with Parades and Changes, and gaining momentum with Apartment 6, marks a turn from catering to the audience to a focus on the relationships between the dancers and their relation to the group. Only after the dancers examine themselves, do they turn outward again to the audience, bringing them into a restorative process.


Despite the provocative reaction that Parades and Changes brought forth in New York, Peter Selz, transplanted from New York, where he was a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, hired in 1965 to direct Berkeley’s University Art Museum, which opened the present Mario Ciampi building under his reign in 1970, decided to open the museum with a presentation of Anna’s Parades and Changes. The current production, celebrating the closing of the unsound earthquake structure, brings the history of the building full circle, as it prepares for de-accessioning.


In addition to being the producing sponsor of the dance production, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, under the direction of Assistant Curator Dena Beard, has mounted an exhibition of visual materials relating to Parades and Changes, including photography, newspaper clippings, video (the Swedish television production) obtained from the Halprin Archive at the Performaing Arts Library and Museum in San Francisco. Halprin’s scores for Parades and Changes, written on index cards derived from both the original 1965 production and the current 2013 reprisal. In them we see the structure of the work, and the ways in which the work can be modified.



Rehearsal for Anna Halprin: Parades and Changes, February 15–17, 2013 at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Pictured in foreground: Brian Collentine. Photo: Pak Han


The present work is composed in ten sections. The way it unfolds depends on both the setting of the presentation and dancers involved. Once the order is established, the results vary as individual choices are made along the way. The dance begins with DIALOGUE, which is this case was conducted by Morton Subotnick selecting and moderating the voices of the dancers from various environs of the museum. ENTRANCES follows, as the dancers establish and announce their presence. UMBRELLA SCORE and WALKING lead up to the infamous DRESSING/UNDRESSING sequence and thence to PAPER DANCE, which finds the dancers engulfed by rolls of brown butcher paper, which they tear and toss, creating a fountain of airborne sculpture. FALLING, EMBRACE AND RESTORE, STOMP and RUNNING conclude the work.


RUNNING continues the Halprin concept of involving persons in the performance outside the troupe, bringing them into the creative process. Students from the University were recruited to join the dance company in this segment. As the company of dancers, all in red, black and white, run around a central wooden structure used in STOMP, they are joined by the students in a rainbow of colors. We are mindful of Anna’s Planetary Dance, which is now in it’s thirty-third year of inclusive dance experience.


At ninety-two Anna Halprin remains unstoppable. She still teaches five classes a week to students who come to her from all corners of the world. She had to forego a speaking tour of France accompanying the feature film presentation of her life, Breath Made Visible, to prepare for the Berkeley presentation. She prepares for other performances, patiently deals with academic inquiry and press obligations, all the while dealing with the everyday of life…just as her dances do.


Artist Talk: Anna Halprin
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Durham Studio Theater, UC Berkeley
4:00-5:30 PM.


33rd Annual Planetary Dance
Sunday, June 2, 2013
Mt. Tamalpais State Park
11:00 AM


Photos: Pak Han