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Marfa Sounding: Anna Halprin, a Memorial Day Weekend of site-specific dance performance

May 11th, 2017 under Arts

MARFA — In the 1960s, on a redwood dance deck built within a grove of trees in Marin County, California, the artist and choreographer Anna Halprin led a community of dancers, musicians, and sculptors through a collective process that sought new systems for generating creativity. Rejecting the narrative styles and performance conventions of high Modernism, Halprin brought her dancers into the city street and natural landscape. Works developed in direct response to environmental and architectural space also addressed the social upheavals and racial tensions of that era.

This Memorial Day Weekend, May 26-28, 2017, Marfa Live Arts in collaboration with Fieldwork Marfa will present Marfa Sounding: Anna Halprin to explore her ideas via a series of performances, films, talks, and workshops that engage the complex architectural and environmental spaces of Marfa. Still working at age 96, Halprin has advised the development of this weekend-long program, but is unable to make the trip to Marfa to attend.

This is the second iteration of the program Marfa Sounding that launched in May 2016 with a series of performances and talks focused on the work of composer Alvin Lucier. Curated by Jennifer Burris Staton  this year’s program focuses on dance.

Since the late 1930s Halprin has been creating revolutionary directions for dance, inspiring artists in all fields. Additionally, Halprin is known for her development of workshops that generate collective exploration. Bringing together musicians with dancers and artists with landscape architects, these explorations of group creativity are always in relation to an environmental awareness: physical, spatial, and social contexts.

Halprin explains, “I want to integrate life and art so that as our art expands our life deepens and as our life deepens our art expands.” Through her students Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, and Simone Forti, Anna strongly influenced New York’s Judson Dance Theater, one of the seedbeds of postmodern dance. Marfa Sounding: Anna Halprin draws upon this rich legacy by exploring the connections between Halprin’s choreography and the development of Minimalism.

On Friday, May 26 the weekend opens with an introduction to the weekend by Burris Staton and Nina Martin, PhD of the Lower Left dance collective followed by film screenings at the Crowley Theater at 7pm. Films to be screened are Jacqueline Caux’s Anna Halprin – Who Says I Have to Dance in a Theater, 2006 (50 minutes) and Out of Boundaries, 2004 (53 min). The following morning, on Saturday, May 27, there will be a dance workshop from 11am to 12pm led by Martin that is open to the community.

On Saturday night, May 27, at Building 98, dancer Stephen Petronio performs Anna Halprin’s solo The Courtesan and the Crone (1999) followed by Kevin Hayden’s film, Between Stephen and Yvonne, 2017 (10 minutes) and an installation of the film Embracing Earth, 1995 (23 minutes, on a loop) throughout the evening. Saturday’s event will begin with a reception and tours of the historic building beginning at 6pm.

The weekend will conclude on Sunday, May 28, with the premiere of a  new work by dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener accompanied by musician Phillip Greenlief. This dance piece will be performed on Fieldwork Marfa’s land on Antelope Hills Road at 7pm.
All Marfa Sounding programs will be free and open to the public. A full schedule will be printed in maps distributed the week of the event and published online at


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