By Sarah Stortz
Liz Lerman, a choreographer known for intersecting dance with different professional studies, will demonstrate her extensive knowledge of art and how it relates to various fields in a keynote address at Hancher at 5:30 p.m. today.
Along with her speech, Lerman will present a panel at the IMU on Friday along with a workshop on Saturday in the Theater Building. In collaboration with the Dance Department, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, and the Office of Outreach & Engagement, the events were designed to fit with the theme semester and help support a diverse range of voices on sustainability.
Since jumping around in puddles as a little girl, Lerman has expressed herself through movement. Moving through the hardships of growing up, Lerman credited her family as a huge support system for her career choice.
After not feeling satisfied with everything her profession offered, she founded her own organization, The Dance Exchange, in 1976 to breed an innovative environment in which dancers could thrive on diversity.
“I was quite interested in a lot of different things on stage, so I wanted to create an environment to do that,” she said. “There’s so much to learn, not only from other dance forms but other art forms.”
Lerman believed it was important to include dancers of diverse bodies and ages in her group, emphasizing that the audience members should feel represented.
“All [people] like to see themselves on stage,” she said. “If I want to tell of the times we live in, it’s hard to tell that story if [the dancers] are all the same.”
Having visited Iowa City before, Lerman previously performed a piece titled “Healing Wars,” focused on theme of war. During her time here, she received warm reception.
“I was treated so beautifully by those in the veteran community,” she said. “It was nice to return some of the gifts I got.”
UI dance Visiting Associate Professor Jessica Anthony has followed Lerman’s work since 2011, when she found her “online toolbox” through her company. Anthony also read her book Hiking the Horizontal, which contains numerous essays focused on the themes of art and expression.
“Personally, I love the notion that Liz describes and supports in this book and in her work that moves things out of a hierarchical system and puts them along a horizontal spectrum,” Anthony wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “In troubling hierarchy, we make space for multiple ways of being, of valuing, of contributing, and of collaborating.”
Anthony sees value in having Lerman visit Iowa City again, with her method of connecting art to current events.
“Liz Lerman is a masterful question asker and storyteller,” Anthony said. “She shares her creative process through really accessible and diverse means, so that participants from any background or discipline can interact with the tools and consider how these tools relate to their lives and work.”
UI Dance Associate Professor Jennifer Kayle said Lerman is an icon for modern dance.
“She’s a woman in dance who has made a rich and successful career for many decades, and that’s not easy to do,” Kayle said. “She has this incredible talent for connecting to the people in front of her.”