ANNA HALPRIN & ANNE COLLOD: "PARADES AND CHANGES, REPLAYS"
AT TANZQUARTIER WIEN (2)
By Sabina Holzer
1. A few words about Anna
Anna Halprin is one of the key
personalities of postmodern dance. People like Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton,
Robert Morris, Trisha Brown - to name just a few of the more commonly known artists - were influenced by her.
In the 60s, the questions
which arose through a different approach to movement were taken further by them
in their artistic work. Judson Dance Theatre had an enormous impact regarding
the function and representation of dance and the body in society, which can
still be felt today.
Although the tradition of
modern dance itself was founded on individual experimentation and anti-academic
principles, Halprin and many of her colleagues were not satisfied with what
once had been a new and eloquent art form. On the East Coast Merce Cunningham,
Alwin Nicolais, James Waring and others were looking for different methods to
use for choreography - chance, technology, collage.
Anna Halprin took training as
a dancer with Magaret H'Doubler at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
H'Doubler stressed personal creativity and the scientific study of anatomy and
kinesiology rather than the values of dance as an art form. In 1945, when
Halprin moved to California with her husband, she took the H'Doublerian
repertoire of movement studies and placed it in a new context.
Sally Banes states that Anne
Halprin did share an interest with Merce Cunningham in reflecting in art the
arbitrariness of modern life through radical juxtaposition of disparate
activities, undercutting narrative knowledge. If Cunnigham rejected the
expressionism of modern dance by looking outside the self to chance procedures
as a way to generate and structure movement, Halprin at first chose the
opposite extreme – going deep inside the self through improvisation. According
to her, this was not for the sake of self-expression. Rather, it was to plumb
the depths of human corporeal imagination, to discover capabilities that had
been stymied by the conventions of modern dance.
Halprin penetrated the
interior body/mind, guiding her dancers and students to engage and analyze
their individual anatomical workings as well as unconscious needs and desires
in voice and movements. This led to a surrealistic effect in which untrammeled
psychological and movement behavior rubbed against the cool task-like
performances produced by scientific kinesiological explorations.[i]
She offered experimental
workshops and invited visual artists, musicians, actors, architects, poets,
psychologists and film makers to join. She called the group “Dancers’ Workshop”
connecting it to the idea of the experimental Bauhaus school in pre-Nazi
Focus on the awareness of
Due to this approach
paradigmatic changes happened: the focus on awareness of movement entered the
field of dance and opened the way for a completely different training and
aesthetics. To be a dancer did not necessarily mean anymore to know how to move
in a classical, jazz, or modern trained way, it meant to be trained in
sensibility towards the movements of the body and to develop movement from the
different structures the body offered. To dance did not necessarily mean locomotion
through space, but to be aware of communication as movement and the
representation of the body. Furthermore, the pedestrian activities of standing,
sitting, lying and walking formed a new base for dance.
Dance became (once more and
quite radically) an investigation of the conditions of our daily social
2. How to bring individual
capacities to given scores?
Changes” was developed by Anna Halprin with and from people of her “Dancers’
Workshop” at the West Coast and premiered in New York City in 1965. It is said
that it provoked a significant scandal because the dancers fully undressed and
redressed three times. Halprin said that the piece was about “the process
of undressing, finding your place in space”.[ii]
For Halprin it had been a
major concern to find ways to collaborate, exchange, and provide freedom for
performers to respond with their individual capacities to given scores. She
used a method originated by the composer and musician Morton Subotnik, who also
composed the music for “Parades & Changes”, called cell-blocks.
The cell-block method meant that each collaborating artist, musician,
dancer-choreographer, lighting designer, sculptor, coordinator, evolved a
series of sound actions, movement actions, light action, environmental or
sculptural actions in discrete thematic ideas called cell-blocks. For example,
in Morton Subotnik's score of cell-blocks there was: 1. might represent “live-music” on a horn - single sustained sound; 2. electronic sound;
3. percussion rhythmic pattern; 4. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto. These
cell-blocks went on to a variety of ten different sound events. The
choreography included: 1. dress and undress; 2. stomp dance; 3. embrace; 4.
costume parade; 5. move with scaffold; 6. paper dance. All cell-blocks were
mutually developed so that they were, in fact, interchangeable.[iii]
Therefore, different sections
of the performance have been shown over the years … During a trip to San
Fransico in 2003 Anne Collod (a French choreographer, dancer, teacher and
co-founder of the Albrecht Knust Quartet[iv])
started to collect sets of scores, handwritten notes and newspaper clips from “Parades & Changes”. She also watched photos and films and other
archival material from Anna Halprin's personal collection. Anne Collod used
those devices to continue the project, and created “parades & changes,
replays”. It is an interpretation rather than an re-enactment, as it
consists of a flexible system which develops and grows. Collod stretched the
collaborative process through time, staying close to the original concept in
dialogue with Anna Halprin and responding to our contemporary reality.
Due to this very fine tuning,
the actuality of these processes, and last but not least to the profound depth
and substance of the “original” piece, “parades & changes,
replays” unfolds to a timeless masterpiece, which is not only very
pleasant to watch, but articulates issues of performance and representation
which still are very valid today.
3. Opening the space for a
different way of watching
The dancers (for the Vienna
version: Nuno Bizarro, Alain Buffard, Anne Collod, DD Dorvillier, Krõõt Juurak,
Michikazu Matsune) mingle with the audience in the bar before the show starts.
They are all dressed in black suits and behave casually.
While the audience takes their
seats in the theatre, the light spreads out equally between the stage and the
tribune. Already one can hear a soundtrack of soft environmental sound, voices
talking, accents of string instruments and different layers of vocals. A large
white plastic curtain is hanging from the ceiling, folded roundly like the
outside bow of a big curve leading into the space.
The performers line up in
front of this curtain. They all take on a specific posture (like one arm
resting on the waist, weight shifted slightly to one leg) and gaze at the
audience. Slowly they start to undress, each performer in their own way, their
own time. They keep on looking. The gaze is a personal eye-to-eye contact with
the audience and even if one is not directly looked at, it opens up the space
for a different way of watching.
The slowness adds a certain
sensuality to the functionality of the movements, yet the dancers carefully
avoid adding any sexual connotations. By the time each of them is standing
naked in front of the audience, the personal and individual movements and
traces each of the bodies renders visible and unfolds, are quite touching. The
dancers pause for a few moments and then start to dress again. When the
performers are dressed again, they walk through the space in circles, again
covering the audience and the stage.
This action of dressing and
undressing is repeated several times, in subtle variations. The movements
become slightly larger; an arm swinging while taking off the jacket, a leg
being raised higher, the timing changing. Throughout all this, the
person-to-person gazing continues between the audience and the dancers as well
as between the dancers themselves.
A catwalk with hallucinating
During this section the white
curtain is lifted slowly, the space of the stage becoming more and more
visible. When the dancers undress mirroring each other, a person brings a large
roll of brown paper into the space. They go and tear the paper, they stumble
and fall with care. Again the movements are functional. The warm light softens
the outlines of the brownish paper and the skin of the dancers. There is a fine
sense of humour to the scene. The different rhythms of the gestures handling
the long and large piece of paper create an absurd dance. As the dancers are
gathering the torn paper together in front of their bodies to cover their
torsos and approach the audience in a straight line, the shadow of some
disheveled Bauhaus costumes is floating in the air.
In the last part, the dancers
dress up with objects which they spread before on the floor. Fantastic
colourful plastic tubes and planes, lampshades and umbrellas, fur shoes,
skirts, draperies and a huge white balloon, grounded with a basket. A catwalk
with hallucinating figures begins. The dancers exchange the different objects
with each other in a calm way, continuously transforming. At the end, two of
them are dressed up by the others with all the objects on the dancefloor before
they are spread out again into the audience and backstage, too.
“passages & changes, replay” is a highly visual performance which never becomes an image. The
light design by Mykko Hynninnen and the sounds of Morton Subotnick, as well as
the costumes and scenographic elements by Misa Ishibashi merge in perfect
liquidity. The dancers perform in an exquisite pedestrian way. They are
beautifully present, eyes and faces open and relaxed to each other, sometimes
smiling. Their virtuosity lies in their dailyness, their non-acting, in their
specific subtlety of movement and the clearness of the composition as the piece
unfolds. The relation to the audience is quite intimate and gives a sense of
sharing the space, a mutual agreement to look at each other. It opens up the space
for recognition and imagination.
Anna Halprin is now 88 and
teaches dance to people of all ages, helping them to build awareness of their
bodies. She is still exploring how the mind informs the body and how the body
can inform the mind. Through one's own creative process, Halprin believes, each
of us will find a path of personal discovery through movement.
Performances like this, one
would believe, encourage to look at the world in a different way.
[i] Anna Halprin "Moving towards
Life", edited by Rachhel Kaplan, Wesleyan University Press, 1995;
[iv] Les Quatuor Albrecht Knust founded 1993 by
Anne Collod, Dominique Brun, Simon Hecquet and Christophe Wavelet focusing on
re-enactments of choreographies of the early 20th century.