Liz Lerman: Storyteller
LIZ LERMAN, Choreographer
I was at a concert by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at Brandeis University in 1968. One of the pieces they performed was “How to Pass, Fall, Kick and Run” with composer John Cage, Merce’s long-time collaborator, as part of the performance.
That was the moment I said “okay” to myself. It was beautiful, and possible.
So the dancers are moving around the stage and here is Cage, sitting off to the side telling stories. He opens a bottle of champagne, there’s a little cork. And then he just starts in with that beautiful voice of his. And all the stories are quite short, short little stories, and the dancing’s going on beside him but it really doesn’t have any specific connection to the stories he’s telling.
That was the performance that made me realize what was missing in dance for me was language as a way of tying things together. I knew it was all chance and that the dance was not reflecting the words Cage was speaking. But both universes were in front of me at the same time in that moment, and I was able to live in them both.
I’d been thinking about talking and dancing but I hadn’t done it yet. That was the moment I said “okay” to myself. It was beautiful, and possible. I was so happy.