Swimming in the Park

Performance artist (and MacArthur “genius grant” winner) Guillermo Gomez-Peña often emphasizes what he calls “the meaningful tableau.” He asks his students to look at something — a mural, a stage, another person — and to place themselves in relation to it in a meaningful way. When it works, it works: Suddenly both environment and actor are illuminated by ideas the viewer would never have noticed. That’s why he’s a genius. Tonight at Spirit of Place, veteran dancer Anna Halprin and Dancers Group present a piece in the graceful forest spot designed by her husband, landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. This is the ideal setup for a meaningful tableau: a collaboration that represents intimacy made fully public, anchored by two people who really know how to amaze and delight the public eye. Anna Halprin is famous for beautiful, odd, political works, like the 1968 piece called Blank Placard Happening, which is often re-created (and looks exactly the way you’d think it does). She’s known for her close work with composers, poets, and the public, who are sometimes invited to wander through her dances; she likes to break the fourth wall, a lot. The choreographer has no problem with large-scale productions, having performed at many international gatherings (the State of the World Forum in 1995, for example), so the park venue is a perfect fit.
Sun., May 3, 11:30 a.m. & 2 p.m., 2009

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