Creative Toolbox

For decades Liz has been developing and articulating creative tools, sometimes by herself, often in collaboration with the artists and movers she has worked with.

“Dance is not about the steps.

Years ago I noticed that even when dancers mastered the steps, they didn’t have a relationship to the movement that made them feel convicted about it. And without that conviction, they weren’t performing it with investment.

So I began posing questions that required the dancers to respond physically. I discovered that dancers who were thus engaged were much more invested as performers, and consequently I was more invested watching them.

Soon I was driven to discover questions and structures that would help people find physical answers and stories inside themselves.”

— Liz Lerman

Originally developed as The Toolbox at Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, this ever-expanding collection is now called the Atlas of Creative Tools.

We’re working on a big and deep online interface for the Atlas of Creative Tools in order to create a better, more interesting realm of learning and discovery. With the help of the resources of Arizona State University, Liz is teaching iterations of a hybrid course that will eventually be entirely online. She is working with designers and coders to make the site as open and creative as any in-person workshop, while also harnessing the best of the experiences that our young people are accustomed to in online environments.

Users will be able to interact with dozens of tools, and receive instruction in their use as they desire. Resources will include art-making techniques, essays and stories about the tools, examples of their applications, and an extensive glossary.

“This sort of approach doesn’t start with reading a textbook or studying facts. Instead it starts with something that can connect to [the participants] immediately. It comes at the material in different and surprising ways.”

– Laura Grabel, Professor of Biology, Wesleyan University

Not just for dancers

These tools have their origins in choreographic and community practice, and can be broadly applied in the process of making dances. But these tools are also in use by theater makers, visual artists, rabbis, youth workers, experimental physicists, dialogue facilitators, molecular biologists, social workers, orchestra musicians, and writing teachers. We encourage users to adapt the tools to their own particular needs.

Until the new Atlas interface is live, please explore and experiment with a much older, but still useful, version.

Dance Exchange’s online toolbox was conceived by Liz Lerman and is edited by John Borstel. Liz Lerman and John Borstel are primary authors of the content on this site, with additional contributions from Peter DiMuro, Margot Greenlee, Jeffrey Gunshol, Elizabeth Johnson, Celeste Miller, Michelle Pearson, Allison Soffer, Bea Wattenberg, and Martha Wittman.