Melanie Hahn attended my first children’s modern dance class in Corte Madera over fifty years ago. Melanie was five years old. In a recent conversation, I told Melanie that movement resided “IN her, and was inside of her today, imprinted in memory from an early age”. Melanie said, “You were my first dance teacher; the one who affected me most profoundly. I learned the ability to ‘let go’ and lose myself on the dance floor and develop a dancer’s identity. My parents, well my mother in particular, was very interested in how the creative process would enhance the overall learning of her children.” Melanie’s mom, now deceased, was a sculpture, a painter, and was posthumously nominated for the Pulitzer for her book, Clay Walls. Melanie’s Dad, just recently deceased, was a prominent pioneer heart surgeon who practiced here in Marin County for many years.
Today Melanie still moves and shakes but she went on to expand her teaching repertoire employing her passion for jazz (influenced by Ruth Beckford who taught her dance classes out of my studio), blues, hip-hop, with much ballet training thrown in. She has performed choreography by Alvin Ailey as Consuelo Atlas’ first soloist. Consuelo Atlas was Alvin Ailey’s first female soloist and Judith Jamison’s predecessor.
Melanie has also used dance as a medium of communication educating the audience about the suffering of Comfort Women, one of the many unspeakable horrors of Japanese imperial hegemony during WWII. Comfort Women were young girls, some as young as twelve years old who were stolen from their parents or even others whose parents, during these hard times, sold them into sex slavery. The large majority of Comfort Women are Korean.
Melanie attributes her love of movement to how it keeps her mind, body, and spirit healthy and strong. Melanie turned to me and said, “Anna, you taught me the importance of expressing my own creativity, my individuality through dance, and you also gave me that special something more that one must have to share the power of movement with others. I have done that as a dance performer, and I have developed movement and dance programs for children that have assisted their academic performance through rigorous movement discipline. Since I established the Korean Bilingual Two-Way Immersion Program in the 70’s in San Francisco, the large majority of the participating children improved their grades and overall school performance after the traditional Korean dance and drumming program was implemented. Most recently, inspired by Dad’s humanitarian medical contributions, and having learned from you that life is a circle, I have decided to take movement to older adults in Marin County.”
As an older adult myself, and having extensive experience and a clearly articulated philosophy of the importance of movement and expression through the Halprin Process, that focuses on the process of healing distinct from curing, I can’t think of a more appropriate commitment for Melanie to make at this time in her life. I applaud her efforts to contribute to the wellness and health of older adults through movement and dance, yoga and poetry and more with Yoga-To-You.
Sincerely, Anna Halprin
The “mother of post-modern dance” and a dancer who has worked for the past two decades with people suffering from AIDS, cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses, Anna Halprin advocates dance and movement therapy as a path to healing.