About Liz

I was a moving child.

I was a moving child, running up giant slides before my parents could stop me, racing into the flooded backyard to jump through the water, begging for dance classes which I was finally allowed to begin when my family left California for Washington, DC, in the early 1950s.

In 1962 I danced in a ballet performance for President Kennedy for which I appeared in Life Magazine, on the very last page. I returned home to Milwaukee and the civil rights movement, and the tension between making art and living in the world began. I was fourteen.

Liz Lerman choreographer

Liz Lerman is a choreographer, performer, writer, teacher, and speaker.

Liz 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.

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.

As an independent artist, new projects have included:

Healing Wars, a theatrical investigation of the impact of the American Civil War on medicine.

A semester at Harvard University as an artist-in-residence.

A faculty position as an Institute Professor at Arizona State University.

The genre-twisting Blood, Muscle, Bone project with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Urban Bush Women.

Critical Response Process trainings with Sadler’s Wells, The Place, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the National Theatre Studio, and the London Sinfonietta.

An interview series called The Treadmill Tapes: Ideas on the Move.

The National Civil War Project, pairing theaters and universities to create new work and new research related to our civil war.

“Liz is a creative visionary.

Since the 1970s, she has built bridges to other domains and expanded where dance lives in our society. She has paved the way for a whole generation of dance makers to discover the power of social change through community engagement… Her vision, artistry and her spirit of inquiry continue to dramatically shape the field.”

– Pamela Tatge, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival

Liz contributes to the field through keynote speaking engagements, customized workshops, and incisive writings.

She is regularly invited as a keynote speaker to diverse gatherings – from arts presenters to ceramicists, research universities to arts-military convenings.

Her collection of essays, Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes from a Choreographer, was published in 2011 and released in paperback in 2014. Critique is Creative, a collection of essays from critical Response practitioners from around the world, is forthcoming from Wesleyan Press.

Liz has been the recipient of many honors:

  • A 2002 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship
  • A 2011 United States Artists Ford Fellowship in Dance
  • The 2014 Dance/USA Honor Award
  • The 2017 ADF Teaching Award
  • The 2017 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award
Choreography by Liz Lerman
Liz Lerman choreographer

Her work includes commissions by:

  • Arena Stage, Healing Wars (2014)
  • Harvard Law School, Small Dances About Big Ideas (2005)
  • Portsmouth Music Hall (with Portsmouth Shipyard), The Music Hall’s Shipyard Project (1996)
  • The Kennedy Center, Spelunking the Center (1993)
  • The American Dance Festival, Short Stories (1991)
  • The Lincoln Center, The Perfect Ten (1990)

See more of Liz’s past works >