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Anna Halprin: Esalen Recollections

July 2015

I began teaching at Esalen about fifty years ago. Fritz Perls invited me to come and offer movement instruction in his workshops. He made me feel comfortable about working with feelings in movement. I remember how one time a student burst into tears when I touched his chest to help him open up. I was horrified. What had I done? But, through working with Fritz, I came to realize that a movement could trigger a feeling state, and that was okay. My experiences with Fritz and others at Esalen enriched me and helped me incorporate different ideas into my work, ideas that I might never have thought of myself.

One of the things I have always loved about teaching at Esalen is its incredible natural environment. We are all part of nature, and being in such a beautiful setting heightens our connection to it. I find both inspiration and healing beside the ocean, in a place like Esalen.

Besides this connection to nature, Esalen offers its guests an introduction to a humanistic way of life, as well as an opportunity to interact with people from different countries. I have greatly enjoyed having students from all over the world in my workshops there. For many years now, I have led a community dance on Wednesday night, to which everyone at Esalen is invited—and this has brought me in touch with even more wonderful people.

A special highlight for me recently has been co-teaching a workshop at Esalen with my daughter, Daria. We are both still learning from each other, and together can give participants a fuller exploration of our life/art process, which uses movement, drawing, poetic writing, and other tools to generate creativity and resources for dealing with real life issues.

Note: In 2015, Anna Halprin celebrates her 95th birthday. More information about her work and the many worldwide celebrations that are being held in her honor can be found on dancesforanna.org.

Photo credits: top right, Rondal Partridge Archives; bottom right, Kent Reno. Pictured below: Anna and Daria Halprin teaching at Esalen in 2012.

Anna and Daria Halprin teaching at Esalen in 2012

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