On Saturday, the Corcoran Gallery became a site-specific location for the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange Summer Intensive students to excite and challenge both fans of the company and unsuspecting museum goers.
The gathering and growing audience was told that there would be a scavenger hunt to find all the dancers in the gallery, for the next ten minutes, “Go, hurry! And remember to look where you least expect!” Suddenly, I was part of the crowd, spilling out of the space and off into the gallery, caught up in the frantic energy of the mission. Two dancers who appeared to be in the 70’s (the company’s ages spanned 6 decades) were performing a beautiful duet on one of the more secluded staircases, and in the hallway to the bathroom, a dancer was tucked under a drinking fountain pressing it and encouraging people to take a drink, singing happy birthday to them as they did.
There were two moments in the scavenger hunt that were truly unique and transformative. In the Recent Acquisitions room, a dancer named Ethan Philbrick asked me what I liked about a sculpture made of panes of glass. I answered that I liked the way the glass was cracked and not entirely perfect. He then instructed me to move my arms around, looking at the way my arms were refracted and reflected in the mirrors. “We can look at visual art, but we can also dance with it too.” And then in the café, two dancers used a table and a few chairs to create a movement piece, sliding around in the chairs, getting closer and closer to unsuspecting diners trying to enjoy a cup of coffee, who didn’t know whether to continue eating or to watch. They had become part of the dance.
The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange is renowned for its boundary-breaking combination of dance and theater, incorporating a cross-generational ensemble with a broad range of artistic talents into its stunningly beautiful and intriguing choreographed performances.
After the scavenger hunt, the performance flowed from room to room, with a new idea explored in each of them. “The art informs the choreography,” Liz Lerman told me after the performance. The idea behind the piece was to explore what happens when you look at art in a new way, and to “offer a fresh interpretation of the guided tour”.
And it truly delivered in that respect; an audience of all ages was transfixed as the final few minutes left an a cappella Dona Nobis Pacem ringing in the atrium as the dancers flowed down the stairs and out of the gallery. It is a travesty that the performance was for one day only[three performances], as it offered an incredible opportunity to challenge and inspire the DC community.
Tour Starts Here
Created by Liz Lerman and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange Summer Intensive Program
Artistic leads: Ben Wegman and Keith Thompson
Guest choreographers: Erika Chong Shuch and Lauren Simpson
Performers and Participants: Jessica Barzell, Barbara Dickinson, Jackie Dodd, Heather Doyle, Leigh Gaymon-Jones, Rayann Gordon, Allison Granucci, Katherine Mardirosian, Ethan Philbrick, Kristin Quinn, Melissa Strain, Missy Thompson, Noah Trulock, Mary Love Ward, Esther Widlanski
Reviewed by Courtney Ulrich