Closing the gap between art and life, this publication describes my approach to dance in a way unlike any of the existing books and videos. It invites you inside one of my workshops, allowing you to absorb my teaching in action, and extends further to capture the whole spectrum of my approach.

When I was born in 1920, Isadora Duncan had already made her radical break from classical ballet and begun searching for new forms. Her ‘descendants’ developed the approach called modern dance, which was based on their own idiosyncratic styles of technique.

Then came a new wave, striving to close the gap between art and life, and enabling dance to once again connect us to our real-life issues. In a lifetime devoted to dance I have traveled many roads in my search for this connection. This publication tells the story of that search. I hope that you will learn at least two things from this account:

  • You do not have to be a professional to dance. Everyone, at any age, no matter what their physical ability or ethnic background, can be a dancer.
  • And dance can heal, transform, inspire, regenerate, and build community.

Dance is uniquely tied to our human presence because the body and its movement are instrumental for this art. Dance engages all of our history and touches directly on the way we relate to ourselves, each other, and the world around us. At the same time dance is multi-modal, allowing us to integrate music, poetry, drama, and the visual arts. An example of this can be seen in the self-portraits we do in the workshops.

My journey as a dancer has been shaped by many collaborators, who have taken me on new paths I never would have imagined. For 70 years my late husband, Lawrence Halprin, shared his ideas on the environment and the creative process, which are interwoven in all my work. I also learned from my daughter Daria Halprin, who with profound clarity developed a method of integrating the physical, emotional, and mental levels of expression in one’s life. My teacher Margaret H’Doubler, a biologist, insisted I work with movement from an anatomical, somatic point of view rather than stylized movement so that each person could discover their own style and express their own mythologies. I also owe much to Fritz Perls, the gestalt therapist. And to all my students, who continually inspire me and make teaching a joy.

Anna Halprin, February 2014

To learn more about the Tamalpa Institute, the training program I cofounded with my daughter Daria, go to tamalpa.org.