Jour­ney in Sen­su­al­ity: Anna Hal­prin and Rodin

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — Michael Wade Simp­son

JOUR­NEY IN SEN­SU­AL­ITY: ANNA HAL­PRIN & RODIN, doc­u­men­tary, not rated, Jean Cocteau Cinema, 3 chiles

The great chal­lenge for a sculp­tor is how to turn a piece of mar­ble into a “liv­ing” shape. The chal­lenge for chore­og­ra­pher Anna Hal­prin, who was in­spired by the stat­ues she saw in the gar­dens at the Musée Rodin in Paris, was how to find the essence of one mo­ment — the mo­ment a statue de­picts — us­ing dancers. The doc­u­men­tary Jour­ney in Sen­su­al­ity:

Anna Hal­prin & Rodin fol­lows Hal­prin’s ex­plo­rations. Hal­prin, a pi­o­neer of ex­per­i­men­tal dance, is ninety-five, still teach­ing, and, at the time of the film­ing, per­form­ing. New York City has al­ways been Amer­ica’s dance hub, but Hal­prin, early on, set­tled in San Fran­cisco (with her land­scape ar­chi­tect hus­band Lawrence Hal­prin) where her in­ter­ests in na­ture-based ex­pres­sion, im­pro­vi­sa­tion, and pol­i­tics, co­a­lesced dur­ing the ’ 60s. While other chore­og­ra­phers cre­ate their works in stu­dios, Hal­prin, who lives on a red­wood-cov­ered hill­side in Marin County, prefers to be out­doors in na­ture. Sea Ranch, a coastal com­mu­nity near Men­do­cino, serves as the set­ting for much of the film, where a group of her dancers met to spend a week de­vel­op­ing work based on the Rodin stat­ues.

Hal­prin is seen talk­ing with the group early in the film, go­ing through a book and point­ing out which Rodin pieces spoke to her. In it­self, creat­ing a dance based on an­other art­work is not par­tic­u­larly orig­i­nal. What is fas­ci­nat­ing is Hal­prin’s ap­proach. She is shown dis­cussing her the­o­ries — like the “red spot” deep in the pelvis from which all move­ment orig­i­nates — and then her dancers are seen rolling around in the sand at the beach, il­lus­trat­ing them. Many scenes fea­ture dancer im­pro­vi­sa­tions with sin­gle fig­ures be­ing pelted in the waves, perched on rocks, or wrapped in ropes of seaweed. Of­ten naked, the dancers are adept at this slow-mo­tion tech­nique in which emo­tion rules thought and sen­sa­tion cre­ates im­age. Cine­matog­ra­phy by Adam Te­ich­man, di­rec­tion by Ruedi Ger­ber, and a sen­si­tive mu­si­cal score by Fred Frith com­bine to cre­ate a med­i­ta­tive mood. When a shot of a dancer reach­ing out to­ward the sea is trans­posed with the sculp­ture that in­spires the move­ment, it makes you re­al­ize how care­lessly we watch things, how lit­tle we usu­ally see.

Hal­prin’s gift to the art of dance is her process, her “scores,” which lead dancers through a jour­ney that leaves much of the dis­cov­ery to them. The dances them­selves, in a the­atri­cal con­text, might seem too static, not in­ter­est­ing kines­thet­i­cally. For Hal­prin, how­ever, the task of an­i­mat­ing sculp­tures seems a per­fect fit with her way of think­ing, and her dancers’ way of mov­ing. The film is a trib­ute to an orig­i­nal chore­o­graphic mind as well as to the ge­nius of Rodin.

The thinker: Anna Hal­prin

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