chapter  Chapter 26
8 Pages


The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange
WithJan Cohen-Cruz

Liz Lerman Dance Exchange is one of many companies that uses its own aesthetic approaches to compose work with community participation. Company founder and artistic director Liz Lerman has been inspired by a range of artists and experiences. Lerman critiques professionalism that devalues art in community context, indeed devalues any performance with a larger frame than a proscenium stage. In the early 1970s, Lerman studied Graham technique in Washington and did guerrilla theatre in Boston. In 1974, she spent a requisite season living in New York City, struggling to make it as a “pro,” earning her living as a go-go dancer. Continuing the avant-garde practice of marvellous and surprising assemblages, Lerman integrates forms, ideas, and people that are usually kept apart. The myriad ways in which Lerman shapes what people offer up, be it company or community participants, bespeaks an effort known in Hebrew as lishlam, to make whole, the noun form of which is shalom, translated as peace.