I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly good dancer. I dropped out of ballet after one lesson and these days I only feel comfortable on the dance floor after a couple of drinks. I often forget — as many of us do — that dance is has the power to transcend these narrow conceptions. No one understood this better than Anna Halprin, who radically expanded the ideas of what dance could be:
“I’ve always said dance is the breath made visible and that covers about everything because once you stop breathing and the breath is no longer visible, you stop moving.”
Anna Halprin is an American dance pioneer who redefined the notion of modern art with her belief in dance’s power to teach, heal, and transform at all ages of life. In the 1950s and 1960s she experimented with avant-garde performances; one controversial performance involved dancers removing their clothes. Later in the 19870s and 1980s, she began thinking of dance as a form of therapy. Halprin works extensively with people with cancer, HIV, and AIDS, and the elderly. On June 23, 1997, Anna Halprin received the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for lifetime achievement in modern dance. Today, at age 91, she continues to dance, perform, travel, and teach. She is the subject of “Breath Made Visible,” a new film by the Swiss filmmaker Ruedi Gerber.
When people who knew of Anna heard that I was making a movie about her, they became very excited and emotional. It was my intention to make this film for people who had never heard about her. I wanted to steer away from an educational biography and engage the audience emotionally, like in any good feature film. The result is a film that shows not only how her unique story unfolds from her ground breaking performances of the 1950’s and 60’s to her solo performances today, but also how her life and work illustrate the true meaning of dance, and its power to not only help us cope with our lives, but to transform them as well and remain truthful to ourselves.
The Jewish Women’s Archive is sponsoring a screening of “Breath Made Visible” and a discussion panel following the film at the Boston Jewish Film Festival on Sunday, November 13. Visit www.bjff.org for tickets and more information.
If you can’t make it to our event in Boston, you can look for other screenings on the film’s website.