Breath Made Visible

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3 out of 5 stars
Breath Made Visible

If nothing else, Ruedi Gerber’s celebratory portrait of Anna Halprin—a postmodern-dance pioneer and Gerber’s former teacher—is a fascinating testimonial to the healing, age-defying powers of both her art and artistry. Nearly 90 years old and still quick on her feet (mentally and literally), Halprin beat the colon cancer she was diagnosed with in 1972 through her own form of expressive arts therapy. That doesn’t even scratch the surface of her achievements: She also developed avant-garde forms of movement in the late ’30s, founded the first-ever multiracial dance company in San Francisco and collaborated with artists of sundry disciplines, including her landscape-architect hubby and children (one of whom, Daria, starred in the countercultural cult classic Zabriskie Point). A tireless earth-mother, Halprin pushed the boundaries of social conventions and touted a self-prescribed doctrine of “kinesthetic awareness.”

Gerber’s cleanly shot, briskly edited doc is only an introductory sampler of Halprin’s life, of course, and how much experimental dance speaks to your sensibilities will determine your feelings about the performances themselves. Still, the sound bites and rare footage are smartly curated, with her hippie-dippy philosophies and politics presented as nakedly as her frequently bared body. So much information, context and personality is squeezed into such a succinct package that, primer or not, you’re left with a strongly realized sense of who Halprin is and what she’s accomplished.—Aaron Hillis

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