PODCAST 163: Liz Lerman
Release Date: 9.18.23
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The Independent Thinker, Liz Lerman
Episode 163: Show Notes
Liz is a choreographer, performer, writer, teacher, and speaker. For the past forty years, she has infused her artistic exploration with a personal touch, humor, intellectual vibrancy, and a contemporary edge. Her choreography has delved into a wide spectrum of topics, ranging from her experiences as a go-go dancer to an exploration of the intricacies of choreography and connections with community. Today, she shares with us insights into what ignited her love for dancing and reflects on the abundant influences that have affected both her life and artistic career. She talks about the importance and complexities of our feelings and how she rode the wild waves of her 20s to discover, for herself, what dance could mean for her. We hear about the impact of her mother’s life and death on her stubbornness to figure life out for herself, why rehearsals should always matter, and the unfolding of events that surround the founding of The Dance Exchange. She expresses and reflects on how she views herself as more of an interdisciplinary artist and her eagerness to be generous about spreading her wealth of knowledge. She then details her passion for the Critical Response Process (CRP) and how that was formed over the years. Join in as we delve into the chronicles of her life and her pursuit of understanding. Tune in now.
Key Points From This Episode:
- Liz offers insight into where she comes from and what ignited her love for dancing.
- She reflects on the myriad of influences that have affected her life and dance journey.
- A wild ride in her 20s: riding the waves of figuring out what dance could be for her.
- The impact of her mother’s life and death on her stubbornness to figure life out for herself.
- How working intergenerationally moved and shifted her mindset.
- The response she experienced when she started making work/performances.
- Making rehearsals matter.
- More about the founding of The Dance Exchange.
- She goes into detail about how her different works unfolded uniquely.
- Her thoughts on the nomadic life and being an ethical visitor.
- How she began to extract herself from The Dance Exchange: composting Liz.
- Reflections on how she views herself as more of an interdisciplinary artist.
- She talks about the Critical Response Process (CRP).
- Liz delves further into her current projects and pursuits.
About Liz Lerman
Liz Lerman is a choreographer, performer, writer, teacher, social activist, thought leader and inspirational speaker. She has spent the past four decades making her artistic research personal, funny, intellectually vivid, and up-to-the-minute. Her choreography has examined everything from her days as a go-go dancer in 1974, to investigating the matters of our origins by putting dancers in the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN-Switzerland.
A key aspect of her artistry is opening her process to everyone from shipbuilders to physicists, construction workers to ballerinas, resulting in both research and experiences that are participatory, relevant, urgent, and usable by others. She founded Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in 1976 and cultivated the company’s unique multi-generational ensemble into a leading force in contemporary dance until 2011, when she handed the artistic leadership of the company over to the next generation of Dance Exchange artists.
In 2016, Liz was named the first Institute Professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University. There, she is also a Senior Global Futures Scientist at the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation, a faculty affiliate in Jewish Studies and a fellow at the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. She is currently a senior fellow at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Liz conducts residencies on Critical Response Process, creative research, the intersection of art and science, and the building of narrative within dance performance at such institutions as Harvard University, Yale School of Drama, Wesleyan University, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the National Theatre Studio among others.
Most recently, she and her dancers created and performed Wicked Bodies, a piece inspired by powerful and grotesque images of women’s bodies over multiple historic periods. Her work premiered April 2022 at the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University. It toured to Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in August, Arizona State University’s ASU Gammage Theater in September and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in October. Wicked Bodies, an intimate spectacle, brings together several consistent themes of Liz’s choreographic output including the invisible ways and means of feminine thinking and action which have been celebrated, erased, or criminalized; legal systems that attempt but often fail to bend our actions towards a fairer and more just world; and how a group of intergenerational artists brings their personal lives to the stage within characters that are imagining futures.
Among her current projects is building the Atlas of Creative Tools, an online resource intended to create a better, more interesting realm of learning and discovery. Users will be able to interact with dozens of tools and learn how to use them. Resources will include art-making techniques, essays and stories about the tools, examples of their applications and an extensive glossary.
Liz’s most recent book, Critique is Creative: The Critical Response Process in Theory and Action (with co-author John Borstel), was published just last year. It addresses the Critical Response Process, a communication system for giving and receiving feedback that Liz invented decades ago as an antidote to kind of comments that can kill inspiration and rob a creative person of their agency.
Her signature blend of dance, spoken word, music, technology, social commentary and audience involvement has garnered her countless awards and honors, including most recently a Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2017 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award and a MacArthur "Genius" award in 2002.
One reviewer had this to say about Liz: “She’s not so easy to sum up; but among the things that go into her makeup are assuredly an impish sense of humor (she could have been a fine stand-up comedian), an almost metaphysical intensity and seriousness, the imagination of a born fabulist, manic energy and no small dollop of plain old chutzpah.”
Connect with Liz Lerman
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Podcast produced by: The Moving Architects
Interviewer: Erin Carlisle Norton