Liz Lerman, a choreographer, performer, writer, educator, and speaker, founded the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in 1976. The company has produced over 100 innovative dance/theatre works and has toured throughout the United States and abroad.
By the mid 1980s, the company was touring extensively, sometimes with the Dancers of the Third Age, an adjunct troupe of older dancers that also performed on its own for many years. On the road, the Dance Exchange combined performance with workshops and professional training, helping to pioneer the community residency as a model for touring engagements by dance companies.
Starting in 1993, with the support of a major grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, the company began to build its presence in the Washington, D.C. area with local partnerships, engagement projects for the urban community, intensive movement institutes, and self-produced seasons at the Lansburgh Theater. Liz Lerman Dance Exchange acquired a former U.S. post office in Takoma Park, Maryland, which it renovated into a three-studio complex for rehearsal, educational, and administrative activities. Community support enabled the Dance Exchange to purchase the building in 1999, becoming one of the few contemporary dance companies in the United States to own and operate its own facility.
As a choreographer, Liz Lerman's aesthetic approach spans the range from abstract to personal to political, while her working process emphasizes research, translation among artistic media, and intensive collaboration with dancers and communities. Liz Lerman has cultivated Dance Exchange's unique multi-generational ensemble, with dancers whose ages span six decades, into a leading force in contemporary dance. Lerman has recieved numerous honors, including the American Choreographer Award, the American Jewish Congress "Golda" Award, Washingtonian magazine's 1988 Washingtonian of the Year Award, and the National Foundation for Jewish Culture's Achievement Award. She is also a member of the University of Maryland's Hall of Fame. In 2002 she was named a MacArthur Fellow in recognition of her creative work, receiving a "genius grant" stipend to support her unqiue contributions to modern dance.
Lerman's work has been commissioned by Lincoln Center, American Dance Festival, BalletMet, the Kennedy Center, and Harvard University School of Law, to name a few. As a frequent keynote speaker and panelist, Lerman addresses arts, community, and business organizations both nationally and internationally. She is the author of Teaching Dance to Senior Adults (1983) and the co-author of Liz Lerman's Critical Response Process (2003), and has written numerous articles and essays.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Milwaukee, Lerman attended Bennington College and Brandeis University. She received her degrees in dance from the University of Maryland (earning a B.A.) and from the George Washington University (where she earned an M.A.).