Anna Halprin: A Transformative Teacher

In the mid 1970s my girlfriend insisted that I join her on a 2-week dance retreat in Marin County near San Francisco.

“Don’t worry that you are not an “official dancer,” Anna welcomes everyone,” she told me.  Off we went in her orange cab-over-camper Datsun pickup for one of the first real adventures of my young life.

I didn’t know that Anna Halprin was already an icon of the dance world. Her early professional career had begun to  transform modern dance by taking it out of the performance hall, into public spaces such as parks, city streets and beaches. She brought improvisation to her work that allowed her and her students to perform “in the moment.”

We met her a few years after her own bout of colorectal cancer when she began exploring dance and movement as a method for personal healing of the body and soul.

The first day was eye opening for me. I explored movement in my own body quickly losing any concern about how I looked to others.  It was only about how the movement helped me connect to my body and to others.  Anna recognized that our moods and emotions—happiness, sadness, joy and fear, are experienced in our bodies and that movement and dance connect our thoughts and feelings together. She told me that I should always think of myself as a dancer, “You move, you dance.”

For a young psychologist, this understanding and approach to bridging the body and mind became a transformative part of my work that I continue to integrate every day with my clients…and myself. In fact, every morning, I bring a part of her work into my stretching exercises which she called her “movement ritual” and which I often think of as my “Anna Halprin time.”

We went on to study with Anna for several more years attending her workshops and community events that grew to focus on social issues such as AIDS, civil rights, and even world peace. A few years ago, we went up to her beloved Sea Ranch on the northern coast of California and worked with one of her long time students honoring her with a dance on a beach near her home

Anna died last week at the age of 100 years. She brough a great deal to the world in art, healing, and social justice. She just did a small thing for me, helping me to see the healer and artist in myself.

Yeah, just a small thing.  Thank you, Anna.

Happenings

The Leadership Café
We’re back to taping our highly acclaimed Leadership Café and this week we were proud to meet with Dr Dan Denison.

Now, if you are at all interested in workplace culture, this is the podcast that you should listen to immediately. Dan  is the Chairman and Founding Partner of Denison Consulting. His work at the University of Michigan studied the link between organizational performance and effectiveness through the lens of culture.

His Denison Organizational Cultural Survey is the benchmark tool to assess and understand workplace culture and how to improve it. His survey is used by over 500 companies around the globe.

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