Time is right for another Anna Halprin ‘Blank Placard Dance’ 

click to enlarge Anna Halprin’s 1967 “Blank Placard Dance,” pictured, will be restaged in San Francisco this weekend to celebrate the dancemaker’s 95th birthday. - COURTESY LAWRENCE HALPRIN
  • COURTESY LAWRENCE HALPRIN
  • Anna Halprin’s 1967 “Blank Placard Dance,” pictured, will be restaged in San Francisco this weekend to celebrate the dancemaker’s 95th birthday.
For nine decades, Anna Halprin has explored what it means to dance and to heal.

The iconic Bay Area artist, who started dancing at age 5 and turns 95 in July, is the subject of a series of celebrations called “Dances for Anna” spanning three months and 15 countries this year.

Though the students, artists and audiences she has influenced are too numerous to count, the Marin-based Halprin – who founded San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop in 1955 – is known internationally for her investment in dance as a transformative practice.

For Halprin, dance is not defined by spectacular displays of technical virtuosity, but by ritualistic, inclusive and therapeutic events. Like her late husband, acclaimed landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, the post-modernist bases her practice on holistic approaches.

On Saturday, the Tamalpa Institute (which Halprin co-founded with her daughter Daria) kicks off festivities in San Francisco’s Mission district with a reconstruction of Halprin’s 1967, Vietnam War-era “Blank Placard Dance,” which dance scholar Janice Ross describes as both a “performed statement about those who protested through public demonstration and the institutional practices that controlled them.”

The public is invited to participate in the piece, which was designed to encourage audience involvement and bring to light personal and global issues.

Halprin herself will attend the the three-hour event, which begins at the Mission Cultural Center and ends at Garfield Square. She’ll be joined by a group of 35 to 40 people carrying placards and 10 musicians. Performance artist Dohee Lee and poet Jahan Khalighi also are participating.

Tamalpa Institute Associate Director Rosario Sammartino, who is directing the reenactment, says the white posters are like “ears, eyes, and hands” that are sensing, listening, and seeing what is important to San Francisco communities.

Along the route, pedestrians and audience members at varoius points will be invited to answer the question: “What matters to you?” – what they would like to see written on the placards – and the performers will collect the responses.

“At the end of the journey, everybody will be invited to create a mural that will become the collective vision,” says Sammartino.

Not only does the “Blank Placard Dance” (and other pieces such as the 35-year-old “Planetary Dance: A Call for Peace”) showcase the interactive nature of Halprin’s creations, it also exemplifies how her work takes on new meanings in changing landscapes. Coming in the wake of recent headline-making demonstrations in Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., and Berkeley, the piece is a reminder of longstanding role that protest plays in bettering society.

IF YOU GO

What Matters to Us

A Reenactment of Anna Halprin's Blank Placard Dance

Where: Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission St., S.F.

When: 2 p.m. May 16

Tickets: Free

Contact: www.dancesforanna.org

Note: The dance pauses at 2:10 p.m. at the 24th Street BART station, at 3:10 p.m. at Balmy Alley and 3:45 p.m. at Garfield Square.

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Kate Mattingly

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