Who Gets to Dance?
First Steps toward a Process Theology of Dance
"The mission of the Dance Exchange is to create dances that arise from asking: Who gets to dance?
Where is the dance happening? What is it about? Why does it matter?"
"I think that for most people dancing is a "whole-making activity" in direct proportion to the extent that it circumvents the imagined and critical social commentary that is constantly running through our minds. I think it builds community to the extent that happens as well. Put another way, critical internal dialogues usually function to inhibit self-expression, not enhance it—to suppress revelation, not invite it.
From the beginning of her choreographic career in the early 1970s, Liz has asked "Who gets to dance?" Click here and watch some of the ways her work has answered that. IWe cannot embed the video on this page, but it's a gem.
Liz Lerman's Story
From her website: www.lizlerman.com
"I was a moving child, up giant slides before my parents could stop me, racing in the routinely flooded back yard to jump through the water, begging for dance classes which I was allowed to begin when the family left California for Washington DC in the early fifties. Classical modern with Ethel Butler until we moved away to Milwaukee where my primary teacher, an early pioneer of contemporary ideas, was trying out her Dance of Dimension, in which she willfully insisted that one could teach both ballet and Graham based modern along with a weekend labs she called "choreographer's workshop." This glorious approach filled me with discipline and joy and then came summers of ballet-only at the National Music Camp including a performance for President Kennedy for which I appeared in Life Magazine: I was on the last page, Marilyn Monroe on the cover. I returned home to Milwaukee, the civil rights movement, and the tension between making art and living in the world began. I was fourteen.
Since then it goes something like this: between the age of 14 and 27 there is lots of experimentation with taking dance classes of all genres at the highest level; testing higher education's approach to art at three institutions in which I learned more about the oppression of aesthetic hierarchies than I did about discovery; teaching at a Quaker boarding school that allowed me the freedom to engage students in every possible form of art-making while insisting that I communicate what and why I was doing these radical performances; looking for a relationship to my peers in NYC; settling in Washington, DC, to get a master's degree (and as a way to get a stipend) while I formed the basis of the Dance Exchange.
At the age of 63 I left the Dance Exchange, my home of 34 years. I left it in the small hands but wide embrace of a group of young artists who are doing just fine. They have "composted" me and are taking the best of the values and underlying philosophy of the place and repurposing it for this world now. It is a great pleasure to observe their progress from a distance, and to let go of the routine, the caring, and the form of a not for profit organization. My brain is shifting as I reacquaint myself and discover new avenues of experimentation and the relative life.
In the few short months of my new life I moved myself to Cambridge for one semester as a visiting lecturer and artist-in-residence at Harvard University, was in a major car accident from which I walked away, rediscovered the enormous power of friendship, found a world in which I need to redefine my competitive self, fell in love with my family while traveling in Ireland, questioned the acts of teaching and guiding others while improving and challenging my own habits.
I came back home to Baltimore in December. I will be making new work in new ways in new relationships over the next few years. I will be helping others when they come to me and ask. I will be working in this country and abroad in settings that continue to forge my thinking, make me bolder, and let me interrogate next generations of artists. It is wide open at the moment. I am a little frightened, a lot more curious, and full of wonder and grief as I gaze around me."
Liz Lerman Dance Exchange performs in Ferocious Beauty: Genome at The Mayo Clinic on 11/09/06, demonstating multimedia dance in a performance setting...Enjoy a short version below:
Note: The video below is a longer version (ten minutes) of the first video.
For one week in June of 2010,
A Paragraph on Spirit and Flesh
From the Website for Dance Exchange:
"Dance Exchange is an intergenerational company of artists that creates dance and engages people in making art. We serve as an incubator for creative research, bringing ideas to action through collaborations that range from experts in the field of dance to unexpected movers and makers. Through these exchanges we stretch the boundaries between the studio, stage, and other environments to make dances that are rooted in the particularity of people and place. We recognize the body and movement as an essential resource to understand and investigate across disciplines. Through local, national, international, and online projects we gather and create community to contribute to a healthy and more sustainable environment.
Dance Exchange breaks boundaries between stage and audience, theater and community, movement and language, tradition and the unexplored. Founded in 1976 by Liz Lerman and now under the artistic direction of Cassie Meador, Dance Exchange stretches the range of contemporary dance through explosive dancing, personal stories, humor, and a company of performers whose ages span six decades....more
A Process Theology of Dance: