In bloom

Pub date April 28, 2009
SectionArts & CultureSectionDance


Next time you plop in front of the TV because you’re just too tired for anything else, remember the sociologists who tell us that the country is aging, and that we should plan for it. Landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and dancer-choreographer Anna Halprin may not be your average "senior" couple, but we could do worse than to admire the most recent gift this long-lasting personal and professional relationship has given the Bay Area. At the very least, it should get us off the couch.

Lawrence Halprin is 92; Anna Halprin is 88. They have been married for 68 years. Both are still working. Their latest project is Spirit of Place, which Anna calls "something I wanted to do for Larry." Produced by Dancers’ Group as part of National Dance Week, Spirit is an installation piece inspired by Larry’s redesign of Stern Grove’s amphitheater in San Francisco’s fog belt. Reopened in 2006, it was built with massive blocks of granite — both honed and rough — imported from China. What used to look like a slightly disheveled excuse for a picnic area now exudes a sense of neolithic grandeur that is finely in tune with the columns of eucalyptus and redwood trees that stretch toward the light. It even includes a pyramid of boulders that accentuate vertical space. Larry wanted Stern Grove to become not just a venue for concerts, but a place for quiet meditation where, as Anna explains, "people can find themselves."

But Anna felt that the human body, in addition to the human spirit, needed to make its imprint on the park. She calls Stern Grove "the most secret place" in San Francisco; though it attracts thousands for its concerts, she finds it "magical" during the week when "neighborhood people walk their dogs, a man tries to exercise his belly off, and lovers make out." To honor this treasure, she wanted to bring the internal and external and private and public worlds together.

As in many of her previous projects, Halprin worked with like-minded people who "could make their own prayer." A call went out for volunteers from which she assembled a group of 60 participants: professional dancers, community people, students, and members of the long-running Sea Ranch Collective. Since Stern Grove does not allow amplification, the use of music would be limited. "It doesn’t matter," she explains. "We’ll make our own sounds."

She also asked local dancers/choreographers Shinichi Iova-Koga and his wife Dana to take an active part in the process because "I like what they are doing." Also, she continued, referring playfully to her age, "you never know what can happen, so I wanted to be sure that the work will not be put in jeopardy." Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man — a drawing that encases a human figure inside a circle and a square — served as Spirit‘s basic blueprint. "But I don’t want people to look only at the ‘dance,’" she insists. "I want them to see the whole picture — the flying bird, the laughing child — because all of life is a dance."


Sun/3, 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., free

Stern Grove, 19th Ave. at Sloat, SF