Monday, September 15, 2008

found: experience of "City Dance"

City Dance publicity photo by Alicia J. Rose

the original post was written
Serena Barton

Yesterday I had an extraordinary experience! I've heard it said that significant art is that which changes us because of our exposure to it. City Dance, part of PICA's Time Based Art event, fits this definition for me. It will be difficult to put it into words, but I'll give it a try.

From the Oregonian:
"In the late 1950s and early '60s, postmodern dance pioneer Anna Halprin and her husband, landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, formed an influential collaboration: taking inspiration from each other, she re-imagined the movement of people in space, while he rethought spaces for people to move in.

The Halprins also had a connection to a groundbreaking collective: her San Francisco Dancers' Workshop was in the same building as the avant-garde San Francisco Tape Music Center (SFTMC), where electronics and found sound were altering music. Together, they were at the heart of a creative upheaval within the broader cultural revolution of the '60s, tearing down spatial and formal boundaries and radically changing the experience of art."

The huge audience of Portlanders and visitors of all ages watched dancers cavort in and around Keller Fountain yesterday at the beginning of the performance. Lively "experimental" music issued from the visible musicians.

At the Keller fountain in the beginning I was having a hard time seeing around people. The sun was beating down on me and I dearly wished I could be in the cool water with the dancers. (I've always had some trouble being part of the audience instead of the performance, from the time I saw my first parade and cried because I wanted to be in it.)

After the first section at the Keller, we then followed the dancers to another fountain, part of Halprin's open spaces designed for Portland.

The moving as part of the crowd from one space to another and being part of the excitement catapulted me into a realization: we were all part of the City Dance! I felt my heart open and felt a strong sense of alert, peaceful, anticipation.

The dancers wore colors that I remember from the exciting period of the early 60's when artists like the Halprins were opening up the world from the stuffy fifties, filling it with new color, images, and sounds.

One space sported a piano in the fountain. It looked so lovely that I stared and stared at it. It looked magical, and yet, right. I continued to be transported to the vivid world the Halprins helped create in the past and at the same time I was also fully present in the moment. Everyone in the crowd was smiling and we acknowledged the wonder of the spectacle and of each other and of our combined experience. There were no crying children, though lots of children were there. I didn't hear any annoying yelling or see any drunken or drugged behaviors. We all just basked in being together.

At the last space I was unable to see anything or hear what a speaker was saying. It didn't really matter. I just watched the crowd and inhaled the delicious scent from the trees. I was amazed at the discovery of these hidden open spaces in the heart of the city. I've lived in Portland so long and didn't know they were there. I wondered what more discoveries I could make in the city to open up my own world.

Soon the speech was finished. We all held hands and walked (danced) single file out of the space. At the end of the park, we were each handed a button that said "PLAY."

After the event, adults and children played in the fountains we'd visited. I rolled up my pants and went in--cool and delicious.

What a gift, to have such an experience. I know my words can't convey what it was like, but I hope we all will go out and experience more--hidden open spaces, plays, art, talks, walks, new food--the wondrous world.

Thanks to the choreographers, dancers, musicians, staff, and volunteers for this event!