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Liz Lerman

On October 17th, Liz Lerman was in Vancouver, and Karen put together the space for her to share some of her work. Key participants from the CONNECT group, Julie, Mirae, Lindsey and I, several other dance professionals and SFU MFA students joined her in the World Art Centre for two hours.

Liz is a leader in the community engaged dance field in the U.S. Originally from Baltimore, like Karen she works with professionally trained dancers and with various communities. While there are similarities in intention between the two practices, the process was quite different.

We began by standing in a circle. We each said our names, and then Liz asked us how many names we remembered. The answer for most was not many. She then proceeded to lead us through a different kind of introduction. We each performed a movement that we felt like doing while saying “I feel like…”. We were asked to remember one movement that someone else did. We did this several times until we had each remembered a couple of movements. We remembered the movements more easily than the names and soon had a phrase to work with.

Later, we crossed the circle to end up at a different part of the circle. In travelling, we had to meet one person we didn’t know yet. After a couple times of doing this, we were asked to stay with a partner and tell them something about what we noticed that morning. We paired it with a movement, shared our movements and repeated this, then changed partners. We shared these movements with our new partner and put them together into a phrase. Liz then asked us to pair up with another pair and each group of four performed their two phrases as one showcase.

We spent time working with the other pair through some very specific questions: what did we like, what did the pair want to change/work on in their phrase, and what did we want to change as viewers? Each time we worked through one of these elements, the pair would work on the phrase and try out different methods of choreographic problem solving. We repeated it so that the other pair could also work on their phrase. This kind of strict structure and time constraint were experienced by all as being a clear use of time and an illumination of the ways we perform, watch and interrogate.

One MFA student commented that she was very aware of noticing what the dancer enjoyed doing, and was inspired to go there rather than emphasizing what she wanted as a viewer. She also mentioned that she believed that the more that she could be a part of focusing on that, the more she would enjoy watching the dance.