Liz Lerman

photo by Lise Metzger

Founding Artistic Director

Liz Lerman is a choreographer, performer, writer, educator, and speaker. Described by the Washington Post as “the source of an epochal revolution in the scope and purposes of dance art,” her dance/theater works have been seen throughout the United States and abroad. Her aesthetic approach spans the range from abstract to personal to political, while her working process emphasizes research, translation between artistic media, and intensive collaboration with dancers, communities, and thinkers from diverse disciplines. She founded Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in 1976 and has cultivated the company’s unique multi-generational ensemble into a leading force in contemporary dance. On July 1, 2011, she handed the artistic leadership of the Dance Exchange over to Cassie Meador and the next generation of Dance Exchange artists. Lerman is currently pursuing new projects, first as artist in residence at Harvard University and then a series of fresh partnerships.  Liz has been the recipient of numerous honors, and a 2002 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship. Liz’s work has been commissioned by Lincoln Center, American Dance Festival, BalletMet, the Kennedy Center, and Harvard Law School, among many others. From 1994 to 1996, in collaboration with the Music Hall of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Liz directed the Shipyard Project, which has been widely noted as an example of the power of art to enhance such values as social capital and civic dialogue. From 1999 to 2002 she led Hallelujah, which engaged people in 15 cities throughout the United States in the creation of a series of dances “in praise of” topics vital to their communities. She created Ferocious Beauty: Genome, premiered in 2006, with the participation over 30 scientists, and has toured it to sites throughout North America, including the Mayo Clinic and the Ontario Genomics Institute. Liz addresses arts, community, and business organizations both nationally and internationally, with recent speaking engagements at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, the Big Intensive at Sadler’s Wells in London, and Harvard University. She is the author of Teaching Dance to Senior Adults (1983), and Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process (2003). This spring, her collection of essays, Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes from a Choreographer, was published by Wesleyan University Press (2011). She has written articles and reviews for such publications as Faith and Form, Movement Research, and Washington Post Book World. Co-commissioned by the University of Maryland and Montclair State University, her newest work, The Matter of Origins, examines the question of beginnings through dance, media, and innovative formats for conversation. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Milwaukee, Liz attended Bennington College and Brandeis University, received her B.A. in dance from the University of Maryland, and an M.A. in dance from George Washington University. She is married to storyteller Jon Spelman. Their daughter Anna recently graduated from college.

To find out more about what Liz is doing, visit her at, or contact Liz here.