Critical Response Process: New Context and Committed Practitioners Expand the Impact

I first encountered Dance Exchange, nearly fourteen years ago, while attending The Ohio State University. I was introduced to the work of the company, through Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process, during a choreography class that offered an opportunity to examine different approaches to artistic critique. It wasn’t until several years later, at the Bates Dance Festival, that I would actually meet the company, and soon after move to Washington, DC to begin a wonderful journey of working with Dance Exchange.

Having both a supportive and demanding environment to share work and receive feedback is something I’ve always valued about my time at Dance Exchange. The Critical Response Process has been a constant companion through the development of new work and my own abilities as an artist and leader. I am always amazed at how the practice of the process continues to reveal valuable uses beyond artistic critic, supporting a culture of inquiry and communication across a range of collaborative context, and as an essential tool in navigating change over our 37-year history as an organization.

Over the next few months, you will hear from several of us at Dance Exchange, as we reflect on our experiences of generating meaningful opportunities for reflection, feedback, and discovery through Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. My hope with this blog post today is to give an overview of the process for those unfamiliar, as an entry point to this valuable part of the Dance Exchange culture.

FOR THOSE NEW TO CRP, HERE IS THE PROCESS IN SHORT:

Guided by a facilitator, CRP leads an artist and a group of responders through a series of four steps, which follow a showing of work-in-progress: 1) Statements of meaning, in which responders say what was exciting, meaningful, memorable or otherwise notable about the work they have just witnessed; 2) The opportunity for the artist to ask questions about responders’ experience of the work, followed by on-topic responses; 3) Responders’ chance to ask neutral questions of the artist and hear answers, with the emphasis on formulating queries that suspend judgment, forestall defensiveness and encourage mutual learning; 4) Permissioned opinions, in which responders may offer opinions, subject to the artist’s approval after hearing the topic of the opinion.

In our blogging about the process, we hope to share CRP’s potential as it relates to artistic critique, and illuminate some of the new directions we are taking the process 

During this year, we are stepping into exciting new territories, using the process to:

Support a major medical corporation to build more effective ways for their staff and leadership to engage in dialog, collaboration, and change management.

Partner with the City of Takoma Park, MD to engage the surrounding community to reflect deeply on their relationship to where they live now, where they have come from, and how the intersection of these experiences informs the collective future they shape as a community.

Work with cultural leaders in Dallas, TX to reflect, share, and build on the ways they are harnessing the power of the arts to advance racial equity.

We are so thrilled to be partnering with our founder, Liz Leman, the creator of the process, to strengthen and expand the reach of CRP. We are doing this work through partnerships with both existing practitioners of CRP, as well as with individuals and organizations new to the process.

Here are just a few of the organizations and institutions who currently have CRP in active use and who are invested in the expansion of its impact: New York Theater Workshop, Opera America, Yale School of Drama/Yale Repertory Theater, University of Georgia, Sonoma State University, PACT (Professional Association of Canadian Theatres)

As we seek additional partners interested in bringing the process to their own communities, we’d love to hear from you.  Are you currently using the process in your work? Would you  like to find further ways to connect with the network of CRP practitioners? If you are new to the process, are you curious about ways to either attend or host a training? Contact John Borstel, borstelj@danceexchange.org to find out more about opportunities to bring the process to you, and get your own copy of CRP on amazon here, or the e-book here.

Lastly, here are two recent reflections on the process. 

The first highlights one participant’s introduction to the process at our first annual Dance Exchange Winter Institute.

The second offers some insights from one of the lead facilitators and practitioners of the process, Senior Advisor at the Dance Exchange, John Borstel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Cassie Meador

Cassie Meador is Artistic Director of the Dance Exchange.