The National Civil War Project

Liz Lerman

Liz Lerman
Photo of Liz Lerman by Lise Metzger

Liz Lerman is a choreographer, performer, writer, educator and speaker. From a piece about her days as a go-go dancer in 1974 to a recent investigation of origins that included putting dancers in the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, she has spent the past four decades making her artistic research personal, funny, intellectually vivid, and up to the minute. A key aspect of her artistry is opening her process to various publics from shipbuilders to physicists, construction workers to ballerinas, resulting in both research and outcomes 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. Now she is pursuing new projects with fresh partnerships, including a recent semester at Harvard University as an artist-in-residence, and projects involving a genre-twisting project called Blood, Muscle, Bone with Jawole W illa Jo Zollar and Urban Bush Women; Healing Wars, an investigation of the impact of war on medicine, to premiere at Arena Stage (DC) in 2014; work in London with Sadler’s Wells Theatre and the London Sinfonietta; comic book structures as applied to narration in performance; and an online project called “The Treadmill Tapes: Ideas on the Move.”

Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes from a Choreographer, Liz’s collection of essays, was published in 2011 by Wesleyan University Press and will be released in paperback in 2014.

Liz has been the recipient of numerous honors, including a 2002 MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellowship and a 2011 United States Artists Ford Fellowship in Dance. Her work has been commissioned by Harvard Law School, the Lincoln Center, American Dance Festival, and the Kennedy Center among many others. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Milwaukee, Liz attended Bennington College and Brandeis University, received her BA in dance from the University of Maryland, and an MA in dance from George Washington University. She is married to storyteller Jon Spelman. Their daughter, a recent college graduate, is in Thailand working at the Shanyouth Center in Cheng Mei.