Inspirational ‘Planetary Dance’ at Yerba Buena Gardens

Courtesy PhotoAnna Halprin’s participatory “Planetary Dance” has been presented in more than 40 countries.

Courtesy PhotoAnna Halprin’s participatory “Planetary Dance” has been presented in more than 40 countries.

Local dance legend Anna Halprin may turn 93 in June, but she is as active as ever. She presents her iconic “Planetary Dance” at the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival on Sunday in the closing event of Bay Area Dance Week.

“‘Planetary Dance’ is something that anybody — children, adults, anybody — can participate in,” Halprin says. “It perhaps fulfills a need to give voice to feelings about conflicts, the shootings, the terrible wars that are happening, and gives everyone an opportunity to express some of those feelings in a peaceful way.”

Halprin created “Planetary Dance” more than 30 years ago in an effort to reclaim Mount Tamalpais after the Trailside Killer murdered six women on the mountain between 1979 and 1980.

Visiting the murder sites, Halprin led a community walk in which people gave offerings and local children danced. Within a week, serial killer David Carpenter was captured.

Upon the advice of a Huichol shaman, Halprin committed herself to staging the dance on the site for another five years. During the time, Carpenter was convicted to death row at San Quentin.

“Planetary Dance,” which has had many incarnations, has been presented in more than 40 countries. Two years ago, Halprin staged it on the Green Line border between Israel and Palestinian territories, where people of both nationalities could meet and dance in peace.

Along those lines, Halprin’s chosen 2013 theme is “Global Renewal.”

“The thing that’s unique about dance is that our bodies are instruments,” Halprin says. “Our bodies are the only way that we have to relate to the world around us. What else is there? Everything we have ever experienced in our lifetime somehow or other gets encoded in our bodies.”

“Planetary Dance” starts with a preparatory session in which dance moves are taught. Participants then may do the dance in place, or with a moving group. Afterward, participants talk and share their experience of the work.

Halprin is staging the dance in various Bay Area locations this year. A full-fledged version on Mount Tamalpais starts at dawn and ends at dusk on June 2.


Planetary Dance: With Anna Halprin

  • Where: Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission Street between Third and Fourth streets, S.F.
  • When: 2 p.m. Sunday
  • Tickets: Free
  • Contact: (415) 920-9181,,

Yerba Buena Gardens Festival 2013

The free series begins Saturday and continues through Oct. 27. Visit or call (415) 543-1718 for details. The May lineup:

  • La Santa Cecilia, Dr. Loco’s Rockin’ Jalapeño Band: 1 p.m. Saturday
  • Asian Improv aRts: 1 p.m. May 11
  • Taiwan in the Gardens: 1 p.m. May 12
  • Let’s Go Salsa with Anthony Blea y su Charanga: 6 p.m. May 16
  • Gamelan Sekar Jaya: 1 p.m. May 18
  • Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers: 1 p.m. May 25
  • BlackMahal: 12:30 p.m. May 30

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