Participating in "Parades & Changes" at BAM/PFA


Two rehearsals and three performances, over. Five days of being around Anna Halprin and her amazing performers. Five days of fun in a multileveled cement-filled museum. Five days of yelling, stomping, and watching "Parades and Changes" before my very eyes. Five days of meeting amazing dancers, scientists, and movers.  Five days of running in a circle dance, over.

Along with her dance community from the Tamalpa Institute, Anna Halprin invited students from UC Berkeley, St. Mary's, CIIS, and Mills to dance/run in her piece "Parades and Changes" for the last score. This was an incredible opportunity and it was such an honor to work under the direction of Ms. Anna Halprin.

Before this invitation, I was familiar with the Berkeley Art Museum. I have walked through the grey  halls before and wandered the galleries with my thick green scarf wrapped around my neck and face. I had felt present and distant while looking at artwork in that museum and wondered how "Parades and Changes" was going to play out. How could a piece so organic co-exist in such a cold world? I thought to myself.  A cold world (BAM) and a warm heart ("Parades and Changes"). Yet it worked out. In fact, the juxtaposition fit the feeling. The dance community running in the very last score represented the warm heart pulsing in a cold world. It heated the room with its breath, it colored the walls with its blood, and it echoed the space with its beat---urging the audience around us with our silent messages: We want change.

To prepare us for the run, Ms. Halprin lead a student workshop on January 20, 2013. As she spoke, I began to fill in meaning for myself in this piece. In our last meeting she said that we had to find something important in our lives, a cause or a social issue that has been on our minds. She wanted us to run for that purpose without the fear of being judged or attacked.

They undressed and then they melted.

They walked in fully clothed and introduced themselves by their names. They told stories of people they were, people they knew, and people they wanted to be -- words invaded the open space and the sound of their voices rendered humanity. Umbrellas of black, white, and red colors shifting them back and forth, side to side. Clumsy and free. They used indirect flow to move them from one position to the next. Then they walked side by side up and down the halls and materialized a busy sidewalk in a loud city in the open space. Once in a while a couple of them would make eye contact, but mostly the body stayed to itself: private and moving forward.

What happened when they undressed in front of you? When their gaze met mine, they revealed an intimate part of themselves willingly and openly. It was more than their flesh.  What did you feel? I felt careful.    It was vulnerable. Like watching a very expensive vase rotating on an axis. It was quiet. I appreciated the display and interpreted it as an expression of fragility: we are human beings and we are flesh.

They undressed and then they melted.

Before the performance on Friday, February 15, I had spent the entire day at the Immigration Symposium for UndocuNation at UC Berkeley. The border was discussed at the event. When the performers melted on stage for one of the final scores, I cried and I remembered the border. They were representing deaths by gun violence in the middle of the room. Ms. Halprin said she worked from newspaper images, and this brought vivid pictures into my head. Death was center stage. Anyone who touched the platform died from a gun shot. Some fell slow, some fell fast, some fell sharply, and some fell languidly. Some of their bodies used light and sustained gestures to fall upon the board. Some used sudden movements to demonstrate a change in posture -- from life to death. Twisted torsos, bodies crawling, and two performers represented mourners. A sad lullaby expelled between two quivering lips. The museum shook with the heart, and her tears fell upon the cold cement floor.

Hardened and angered, the bodies of the fallen rose and created a multi-rythmic beat against all the wooden platforms on stage. They leaped from one platform to the next yelling and hitting hard against the heels of their shoes. The drum started a beat, and then run was summoned.

The Last Score: Running for a purpose.

As I leaned against a cold cement wall, waiting for our entrance, I disappeared into another dimension. My purpose clear in my head. Life at the border. Life for my brothers and sisters. Life. This is my cause.

It was our turn.   We entered the space and ran to and against the beat of the drum. We breathed our purpose and exhaled a sound of hope into the circle. No words were used, just sounds delivering our anxiety and impatience. We want change.

Running for a purpose changes the whole dynamic of running. What used to be a chore has now become a celebration. The feeling of my feet pushing against the ground is not just me obeying the laws of gravity, but it's a conversation between the earth and my body. The earth, as we all know, is hurting -- and therefore an instant relationship between my message and the earth was created in the run.

Every step I took I pushed against the earth, and we both shared our stories along with twenty other people. We ran and ran until the pulsing heart was finally heard. 

BAM/PFA Event:
San Francisco Chronicle Article:
Tamalpa Institute:
Pak Han:

NOTE: Image by Pak Han used in the Daily Cal Article Review of Parades & Changes: