Architecture/dance: Choreographing and inhabiting spaces with Anna and Lawrence Halprin

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In this paper I build upon geographical writings on non-representational theory and dance by exploring how the pioneering avant-garde dancer Anna Halprin and landscape architect Lawrence Halprin attempted to choreograph a range of bodies and environments in 1950s and 1960s California. In contrast to geographic writings which have focussed on the regulatory and oppressive politics which are frequently embroiled in the choreographing of specific traditions of dance, I highlight the complex and contested nature of choreography, before focusing on the Left-leaning, libertarian, democratic, counter-cultural choreographic experiments of Anna and Lawrence Halprin. I examine the evolution of Anna and Lawrence's philosophical approaches to creativity and the arts, highlighting the importance of Bauhaus principles of interdisciplinary working and charting their early attempts to rethink landscape architecture and dance through an understanding of the spaces of choreography and performance, and the performativities and choreographies of spaces. I then focus on Anna and Lawrence's interdisciplinary 'Experiments in Environment' workshops of 1966 and 1968, which marked a turning point in their respective approaches to choreography, participation, and collective exploration and creativity. I examine their pioneering attempts to include diverse communities and audiences in their performance and design projects, and I build upon recent work on the politics of non-representational theory and affect by showing how Anna and Lawrence sought to engineer affects and emotions with explicitly positive, inclusive, egalitarian, democratic, and communitarian aims.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-449
Number of pages23
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2010


  • Affect
  • Architecture
  • Dance
  • Landscape
  • Performance


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