BECKET, Mass. — The 2017 Jacob's Pillow Dance Award, a prestigious honor that carries a $25,000 cash prize, will be presented to choreographer, performer, writer, educator and speaker Liz Lerman in acknowledgement of her vision and outstanding contributions to the dance field.
Long ago dubbed the "Democrat of Dance" by Alan M. Kriegsman of The Washington Post, Lerman's extraordinary career of the past four decades includes a wide range of groundbreaking work. Established in 2007, the Jacob's Pillow Dance Award's previous recipients include the legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham; MacArthur Fellows Michelle Dorrance and Kyle Abraham; and choreographer, performer, and artistic director Camille A. Brown, among others.
"Liz is a creative visionary," said Jacob's Pillow Director Pamela Tatge. "Since the 1970s, she has built bridges to other domains and expanded where dance lives in our society. She has paved the way for a whole generation of dance makers to discover the power of social change through community engagement and by, as she puts it, 'rattling around in other people's universes.' Her vision, artistry and her spirit of inquiry continue to dramatically shape the field. As the Pillow embarks on its next evolution of research and development, we find it particularly important to honor one of the seminal forces of this work in our country."
"I am so fortunate to be acknowledged in my own lifetime, and for that recognition to come from such an iconic place as Jacob Pillow, which has been a spiritual and radical home to dance, is incredible," Lerman said. "I think the recognition is casting a light on a larger set of ideas, that allow people to think about the relationship between stage work, learning environments of all kinds, engagement, and the role of the artist as citizen. I hope what the Pillow is saying to me, is we have respected your willingness to push boundaries, and we expect and need that to continue."
Lerman introduced an important era of radical inclusion in dance. Her artistic research brings various publics into the work, tackling topics of developmental biology and astrophysics to the physical and psychological wounds of war. From the multigenerational ensemble of the former Liz Lerman Dance Exchange to her more recent projects, her work exhibits "expansive range, emotional depth and singular beauty" (Sarah Kaufman, The Washington Post). She was an early innovator mixing media with dance, including dancers talking on stage beginning in 1974. The use of new technologies is a central part of her work from 1984 to the present, showing a huge range of study from shipyards, to genetics, to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Lerman has been met with numerous accolades, including a 2002 MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellowship, a 2011 United States Artists Ford Fellowship in Dance, and the 2014 Dance/USA Honor Award. Her work has been commissioned by prestigious venues and universities alike, including Harvard Law School, Wesleyan University, Lincoln Center, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as well as Jacob's Pillow.
Jacob's Pillow Director Pamela Tatge will present Lerman with the Award at the Season Opening Gala on June 17. This fall, Lerman will participate in the Pillow's regional convening of New England choreographers, where participants will share work, discuss career-building issues and be introduced to Lerman's Critical Response Process, and internationally renowned system in use for more than 25 years for soliciting feedback on any creative work. In the week after receiving her award, Lerman will participate in a free PillowTalk titled "Liz Lerman: Dance for Our Time" on Friday, June 23, at 5 p.m.
The Jacob's Pillow Dance Award was created in 2007 through an annual anonymous gift of $50,000, of which $25,000 is given to an artist of exceptional vision. In commemoration, the honoree receives a custom-designed glass award sculpture by Berkshire-based artist Tom Patti, whose work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among other prominent institutions worldwide.
The donor's annual gift also provides for $25,000 for Jacob's Pillow commissions, presentations, and the Creative Development Residency Program, which has funded residencies for numerous dance artists including Ephrat Asherie, Netta Yerushalmy, Ronald K. Brown & Arturo O'Farrill, Sara Mearns, Bryan Arias, John Heginbotham, Michelle Dorrance, Andrea Miller, Adam H. Weinert, Kyle Abraham, Camille A. Brown, Suzanne Farrell, MADBOOTS DANCE, Big Dance Theater, zoe | juniper, Stephen Petronio, Kimberly Bartosik, Rashaun Mitchell, Silas Reiner, and many others.
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