Making Dance That Matters: Dancer, Choreographer, Community Organizer, Public Intellectual Liz Lerman
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Washington, D.C.-based choreographer and dancer Liz Lerman, a MacArthur Award recipient, has been making dances of consequence for 30 years. Her choreography, her writing and her public speaking tackle "big ideas" for the dance field and society at large. Lerman articulates those ideas as questions: "Who gets to dance? Where is the dance happening? What is it about? Why does it matter?" This thesis investigates how Lerman has used her expertise as a choreographer, dancer and spokesperson to propel herself and her ideas beyond the tightly knit field into the larger community as a public intellectual. A brief history and overview defines public intellectual, followed by an examination of Lerman's early life and influences. Finally, three thematic areas in Lerman's work -- personal narrative, Jewish content and community-based art -- are explored through the lens of three choreographic works: "New York City Winter" (1974), "The Good Jew?" (1991) and "Still Crossing" (1986).