Thursday, December 15, 2011
ADDING ART TO ACADEMICS
Dance director crosses disciplines during Harvard semester
In July, modern dance legend Liz Lerman stepped down as director of the Dance Exchange, a Maryland-based company she founded 35 years ago.
But dance is all about movement, and Lerman came to Harvard this semester as a visiting lecturer in the Music Department and as the Josep Lluis Sert Practitioner in the Arts. "The timing was right," she said.
"My presence was a kind of research" for her and for Harvard, said Lerman. What would it be like, she wondered, for a working artist to be at the University for so much time? And what would it be like for a modern dancer to spend so much time trying to integrate with other disciplines?
For Harvard, the result was wonderful.
"Inspiring and energizing," said Lori Gross, associate provost for arts and culture. "Liz Lerman demonstrated how artistic practice can cross disciplinary boundaries to help students grapple with complex problems."
Lerman, who is dancer-slim and electric with energy, led workshops on movement for courses in law, mythology, arts education, and more. She initiated a conversation series called "Treadmill Tapes" with Harvard experts in English, government, botany, art history, and other disciplines. (These 45-minute talks, conducted on side-by-side treadmills, are being edited down to a few minutes each.) She taught a course. And in November Lerman staged "Healing Wars," a work in progress that will be part of a grander national artistic re-imagining of the Civil War during its sesquicentennial years.