Dance Exchange History

Since its founding by Liz Lerman in September 1976, Dance Exchange has produced more than 100 innovative dance/theatre works, presented thousands of performances and conducted innumerable community encounters. With these activities, the company has reached communities of every size from Los Angeles, California to Eastport, Maine, from Yamaguchi, Japan to Gdansk, Poland.

Highlights of our history:


Liz Lerman begins teaching senior adults at the Roosevelt for Senior Citizens, a city-run residential facility in inner-city Washington, DC. She then creates Woman of the Clear Vision, a dance about her mother’s death with a cast of professional dancers and Roosevelt residents.


The Dance Exchange is incorporated, opening a school for professional and avocational dancers in downtown DC.


Ms Galaxy and Her Three Raps With God premieres at Baltimore Theater Project, the first in a career-long series of evening-length works that will typify Liz’s use of dance to address topics of cultural, social, and historical importance.


New studios open on Rhode Island Avenue. Bonsai choreographed for the National Arboretum, the first in a long line of unusual commissioning partners.


Who’s On First?, Liz’s dance about baseball, premieres at Washington Performing Arts Society’s City Dance Festival.


Dance Exchange moves to new studios in the Lansburgh Building, a former department store that had gone into decline following the 1968 riots.

As artistic director for the year’s City Dance festival, Liz choreographs 800 dancers on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The Dance Exchange establishes the Dancers of the Third Age as adjunct troupe of senior adult dancers. The group will go on to offer hundreds of performances in Washington-area schools and to share the bill with the core company in many major engagements.


Docudance: Reaganomics premieres at Dance Place and receives coverage from the Wall Street Journal, NPR’s All Things Considered and other national media.


Liz Lerman’s Teaching Dance to Senior Adults is published.


Touring increases; Project to revitalize Lansburgh falters; Dance Exchange closes its school. Company debuts in New York with Docudance: Nine Short Dances About the Defense Budget and Other Military Matters.


Dance Exchange with Dancers of the Third Age make their first appearance abroad at The Other America Festival in Stockholm, Sweden.


Performed on an outdoor stage at the foot of Manhattan, Still Crossing helps commemorate the centennial of the Statue of Liberty, establishing a signature work for the company that will engage dozens of communities over the next 20 years.

Gala at French Embassy marks the company’s 10th Anniversary. Russia: Footnotes to a History continues Liz’s exploration into major topics with full-evening works.


Dance Exchange dances at the Eurokaz Festival in Yugoslavia.


May I Have Your Attention, Please? at DC’s Union Station helps establish Dance Exchange as an innovator in site-specific dance.


The Good Jew? premieres, the result of two years of development and a national partnership between four performing arts presenters.


Dance Exchange and Dancers of the Third Age are combined into a single, intergenerational performing troupe. Company is officially renamed Liz Lerman Dance Exchange.


Safe House: Still Looking, inspired by the legacy of the Underground Railroad, premieres at the historic Friends Meeting House in Wilmington, Delaware, itself once a way-station for escaping slaves.


Dance Exchange comes home for an unprecedented two week run at Washington’s new Lansburgh Theatre – in the building that ultimately took the place of the failed arts center.


Two-year Shipyard Project, a collaboration with the Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, culminates with a week long festival. The project will attract wide notice as an example of the power of the arts to promote such values as social capital and civic dialogue.

20th Anniversary celebrated with Light Years, a site-specific gala at DC’s dramatic Intelsat building.


Dance Exchange moves artistic and administrative operations to a former post office on Maple Avenue in Takoma Park, Maryland, a progressive small town on the DC border.

Shehechianu, a three-year project examining the intersections in 20th Century American history, culminates at a second Lansburgh Theater run.


New Dance Exchange school opens at company’s Maple Avenue studios.


On New Year’s Day, Dance Exchange greets the new millennium and launches its 3-year, 15-city Hallelujah project with a sunrise performance in Eastport, Maine, the eastern-most city in the United States.


At the peak of its tour, Hallelujah creates five new dances in the course of five months in five cities from Los Angeles, California to Burlington, Vermont.


Hallelujah/USA caps off the Hallelujah project with a national gathering of project participants for four performances at the new Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts at Maryland. Over 100 performers from 15 cities gather to offer two full programs of dance and celebration engendered by this signal project.

Liz Lerman awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.


Peter DiMuro’s Near/Far/In/Out establishes Dance Exchange’s multiple artistic voices in performances on the road and at home.


Small Dances About Big Ideas commissioned by Harvard Law School to commemorate 60th Anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials.


Ferocious Beauty: Genome premieres at Wesleyan University after two years in development and hundreds of interviews with scientists, ethicists, and scholars.

Renovation of Takoma Park Studios replaces pillars with a steel roof support, opening up expansive new spaces for rehearsal and education. Re-opening helps to launch 30th Anniversary celebrations.

Dance Exchange Is the New 30 celebration at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at Maryland marks the company’s 30th Anniversary with performances, party, and transfer of archives to the Center’s Performing Arts Library


Launching the development of what will become The Matter of Origins, Liz Lerman leads a research team on a visit to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland.

Cassie Meador’s Drift, a work about how landscape changes over time and where our groceries come from, premieres onwins a the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage commission. The work was commissioned by the Kennedy Center and Meador received a and earns choreographer Cassie Meador a Metro DC Dance Award for her choreography.


With residencies in the US, England, Ireland, Japan, and Guyana, the company dances on four continents in a single season. Highlights include the premiere in Sapporo, Japan of Liz Lerman’s Darwin’s Wife, which gives insight into the relationship of Emma and Charles Darwin.


Premiering at the University of Maryland, Liz Lerman’s The Matter of Origins offers a unique audience engagement format, with Act One as media-enhanced stage performance, Act Two as site-specific event including tea, cake, iPads, and conversation.


With a video retrospective and party titled Celebrate Liz Lerman founder Liz Lerman is honored as she departs to pursue an independent new phase of her career. (Find out more about what Liz is up to here). Cassie Meador assumes Artistic Directorship of the company, which resumes using Dance Exchange as its official name.