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Legacy Oral History Online Collection

Circle The Earth

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Circle the Earth-Dancing with Life on the Line was started by Anna Halprin in 1981 with a series of public workshops over a period of six months called Search for Living Myths And Rituals through Dance and the Environment. The focus of the workshops was to find new ways to experience the self in the environment, as a pathway to the development of a modern, integrated experience of myth and ritual. The dances that were generated were reflective of the diversity and involvement of the participants. Lawrence Halprin focused on people’s relation to the environment, how it affected life and work and its effect as a life-giving force in people’s lives. Using the RSVP cycles and the personal stories of participants gave rise to a shared experience of Mt. Tamalpais and the killings that had been taking place on the mountain.

Through a series of drawings in which the image of the mountain kept appearing, it became apparent that the relationship to and a longing for the lack of safety on the mountain was the central theme of this group. The shared concern about the lack of safety on the mountain created a rallying point for community that catalyzed people’s values, morals and spiritual beliefs.

The first Circle The Earth dance, called In And On The Mountain, took place both in a theater and on Mt. Tamalpais itself. Parts were danced by members of the Tamalpa Institute; other parts were danced by workshop participants. Soon after this dance was done, the trailside killer was caught and peace returned to the mountain.

The dances continued for five years every spring: In And On the Mountain, Return to the Mountain, Run to the Mountain, Circle The Mountain, ever-deepening in understanding and ever-expanding in vision. Circle the Mountain renamed itself Circle the Earth. And where it once danced to reclaim a small measure of peace, now it danced to reclaim the planet.

In 1989, Circle The Earth gathered 135 participants to create a dance to challenge HIV, subtitled Dancing With Life on the Line. For a time, the circle of death, isolation, ignorance and fear was broken; the circle of health, peace and trust was strengthened. A healing had begun. In 1991 the dance was re-created. Healing is an ongoing process, not an event. 

Anna Halprin, Spring 1992

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