Let me start of by saying that the City Dance of Lawrence and Anna Halprin was my absolute favorite event at this year’s TBA festival. To be very clear about my biases, I am a fan of post-modern dance, minimalist music, and on top of this, the fountains designed by Lawrence Halprin are some of my favorite public spaces in Portland. Just finding out that Third Angle New Music Ensemble would be performing the works of Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, AND Morton Subotnick IN the fountains WITH accompanying dance nearly caused my head to explode.
The City Dance of Lawrence and Anna Halprin
Date (09.14.08) at Lovejoy Fountain
2008 Time-Based Art Festival, PICA
Photo by Ben Kulp
All Rights Reserved, PICA
The beginnings of post-modern dance, minimalist music, and Halprin’s re-engineering of public space all developed together, feeding off each other and to see what these arts looked like together seemed like a compelling intellectual exercise. The reality of the performances did not fail to live up to my mental hype; the music and dance were spectacular. The music was dramatically enhanced by the space and the dance could not have existed outside of the space it was performed in. In short, I could not have asked for more from a performance, especially one that was free to the public.
The piece was divided into four stages, each taking place in a different park with the audience traveling to each location guided by performers. Each location featured a different composer and choreographer with music starting before and trailing after the audience entered the space. In order to keep this to a readable length, I’m going to focus on my favorite moment, which took place at Lovejoy Fountain.
As the audience enters the plaza, the haunting sounds of Terry Riley’s M….mix seem to emanate from the fountain itself. Composed of found sounds and tape loops, the music swoops and growls, pops, whistles, and screams creating a shifting soundscape that is echoed back by the surrounding buildings. Through this, two dancers enact a cycle of life and rebirth, “dying” on the concrete plaza and being reborn after being watered (literally, with a watering can) by the other dancer.
As the crowd settles, the strains of In C begin. In C is my favorite composition by Terry Riley and the excerpt presented here works extremely well. The shimmering quality of the piece is matched perfectly by the cascading patterns of falling water from the fountain and the shifting tension of the work is highlighted by the dance choreographed by Linda Austin (of Performance Works NorthWest). There is something else though, the time of day, the quality of the light, the physical composition of the space itself make this THE time and place for this music and this dance.
The individual pieces don’t just benefit from being in the same place, they NEED to be in the same place. Seeing these works together is like placing them back in their proper context. Anna Halprin’s dance was influenced by Lawrence’s architecture and by the works of the composers she was working with and while that can sometimes be hard to see from our vantage point in 2008, nothing could have been clearer Sunday afternoon. Modern art begs for more of this type of collaboration across the arts, not just with new work, but in the way we approach displaying and performing older works as well. The City Dance of Lawrence and Anna Halprin serves as a shining example of how this could and should work.