In 2002, Oakland Mayor, now governor, Jerry Brown started Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) with the hope that students would have an outlet to express themselves through art forms like dance, theater, and visual illustrations.
When it comes to “going out dancing,” most people think of it as a Saturday night type of affair—a chance to get dressed up and show off some sweet moves, staying up until the wee hours. Well, it’s 11am on Sunday morning now, and for the dancers gathered at Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center, this is the perfect time to get their groove on.
It’s early evening, and Anna Halprin is leading one of her weekly dance and improvisation classes at her Marin County studio. She guides the dancers across the wood floor, gracefully demonstrating movement after movement. Her voice fills the room as she encourages students to dig deeper. She is calm, but energetic. She is 91 years old.
The Bay Area has one of the largest and most active dance communities in the country, with many movement styles represented, from ballet, to hip hop, to tango, to contact improvisation. These different kinds of dance all find a home at the dance service and advocacy organization called Dancers’ Group, which turns 30 this year.
One hundred years ago, on a late May evening in Paris, an 11-minute ballet so scandalized audiences that it’s still making waves today.
“Afternoon of a Faun” was choreographed by then-23-year-old Vaslav Nijinsky for the Ballet Russes. The dancers were barefoot and the angular movements of the dance rejected the formal constraints of classical ballet. Then there was the issue of the subject matter, which was overtly sexual in a way that audiences of the time had never seen.