Featured Profile

Liz Lerman
Founding Artistic Director
The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange

Liz Lerman is a choreographer, performer, writer, educator, and speaker. Described by the Washington Post as “the source of an epochal revolution in the scope and purposes of dance art,” her dance/theater works have been seen throughout the United States and abroad. Her aesthetic approach spans the range from abstract to personal to political, while her working process emphasizes research, translation between artistic media, and intensive collaboration with dancers and communities. She founded Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in 1976, and has cultivated the company’s unique multi-generational ensemble, with dancers whose ages span five decades, into a leading force in contemporary dance. Liz has been the recipient of numerous honors, including the American Choreographer Award, the American Jewish Congress “Golda” Award, and Washingtonian magazine’s 1988 Washingtonian of the Year. In 2002 her work was recognized with a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, and she was recently designated for the National Foundation for Jewish Culture’s Achievement Award and induction into the University of Maryland’s Hall of Fame. Liz’s work has been commissioned by Lincoln Center, American Dance Festival, BalletMet, and the Kennedy Center, among many others.

From 1994 to 1996, in collaboration with the Music Hall of Portsmouth, N.H., Liz directed The Shipyard Project, which has been widely noted as an example of the power of art to enhance such values as social capital and civic dialogue. From 1999 to 2002 she led Hallelujah, which engaged people in 15 cities throughout the United States in the creation of a series of dances “in praise of” topics vital to their communities. Her current projects include Ferocious Beauty: Genome, an investigation of the impact of genetic research in our lives, and a commission from the Harvard University School of Law for a work observing the human rights legacy of the post-WWII Nuremberg Trials. As a frequent keynote speaker and panelist, Liz addresses arts, community, and business organizations both nationally and internationally. She consults regularly with the Mellon Orchestra Forum and Synagogue 2000, and recently participated in Harvard University’s Saguaro Seminar, which gathered thinkers to promote the growth of civic connectedness in the United States. She is the author of Teaching Dance to Senior Adults (1983) and the co-author of Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process (2003), and has written articles and essays for such publications as Reconstructionism Today, Faith and Form, Movement Research, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Community, Culture, and Globalization.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Milwaukee, Liz attended Bennington College and Brandeis University, received her B.A. in dance from the University of Maryland, and an M.A. in dance from George Washington University. She is married to storyteller Jon Spelman. Their daughter, Anna, was born in 1988.


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Recent Contributions by Liz Lerman