While TBA brings unique performances from around the world to Portland's doorstep, the most exciting pieces are often site-specific performances. Third Angle New Music Ensemble's The City Dance of Lawrence and Anna Halprin draws inspiration from the landscape architecture of Lawrence Halprin, who in turn was inspired by the choreography of his wife, dancer Anna Halprin. I spoke with choreographer Linda K. Johnson about how the show uses Lawrence Halprin's series of cascading fountains in downtown Portland—notably the iconic Ira Keller Fountain—for a show that combines design, dance, music, and public space.
MERCURY: Have you been studying Anna Halprin for a while?
LINDA K. JOHNSON: The dominant dance culture has been shaped scholastically and aesthetically through the years by what's going on in Manhattan and Europe, so for many years Anna has been kind of ignored and dismissed. She happily made her work on the West Coast, which gave her the freedom to push boundaries. As a dance student, I heard about her work, but I didn't know that much. She has been on my "to-do" list. Now, I am completely awed and humbled by her.
How was Lawrence influenced by Anna's work?
The sequence of fountains was built in the 1960s and early '70s, at a time when the Halprins shared so many conceptual interests. Anna's sense of movement through space illuminated Larry's chosen design, and Larry's thinking about the public's participation influenced Anna's pieces at that time.
What will be happening during the show?
Think of it as a performance journey. There are four choreographers [Johnson, Cydney Wilkes, Linda Austin, and Tere Mathern], each taking a different site. The audience starts at the Keller Fountain, then moves up to Pettygrove, which is America's first berm park—there's no actual water there—and it goes to the Lovejoy Fountain, and then the Source Fountain, this little tiny ziggurat at the top. Most Portlanders don't know the Pettygrove and Lovejoy and Source are up there in those condominiums; you're at one site for 20 minutes, and then the whole audience moves in a very performative fashion, which I won't reveal. Third Angle plays live at each of the sites, tracking the roots of minimalism through works by Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, La Mont Young, and Morton Subotnick.
It's like a civic project; you can look at it on a historical level. These fountains ushered the way for all of the other major public spaces we have, from Pioneer Courthouse Square to Jamison Square. When Halprin built the Lovejoy and the Keller, it shifted landscape architecture forever in terms of how the public was invited to participate. This project really gives people an opportunity to touch into that history as they walk the sequence.