Best Run

A Weekend of Texas Contemporary Dance, known for showcasing new works and new artists, goes interactive this year, inviting the public on stage for a community performance of Earth Run, by avant-garde choreographer Anna Halprin.

Karen Stokes, director of dance at the University of Houston's School of Theatre, is coordinating the Halprin work, which is open to dancers and nondancers alike.

"It's the first time we've done an event of this nature," says Stokes. "I learned the score about ten years ago and have been wanting to set it in Houston. Since 9/11, I've felt a real need to do this piece."

Halprin told The New York Times in 1995 that she created Earth Run as a "ritual that will allow all of us to give expression to our worst fears about war and destruction and then express our greatest aspirations for peace and reconciliation."

"Basically," says Stokes, "it's three circles moving in opposite directions." The performers run, stand and kneel at their own pace. Usually each participant vocalizes a dedication. "They say what they're running for, or who," explains Stokes.

The work has had successful performances worldwide (in fact, Halprin now refers to it as the Planetary Dance because she thinks that's a more appropriate title). Even if you don't believe in the healing powers of dance, participating will give you a chance to learn about performing, whether you choose to join in the running or in the drumming.

The "score" is actually a written document using text and notation symbols to describe what will take place in the 20- to 30-minute piece. If you want to learn more, show up at 1 p.m. Saturday, September 28, for a three-hour workshop. The site-specific piece premiers at 6 p.m.

For those who'd prefer to keep their seats and check out what the local dance scene has to offer, evening performances will feature works by Suchu Dance, Hope Stone, Sandra Organ Dance Company and Houston Metropolitan Dance Company -- to name just a few troupes.

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Marene Gustin