There are more connections between science and dance than you might think.

“Many parallels exist between the laboratory and the rehearsal hall, in terms of trial and error, formulating a hypothesis, and the path of inquiry that comes with developing a piece of original work,” said Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge.

Few artists so fully embody this connection between the arts and sciences as Liz Lerman, whose company, the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange is returning to Wesleyan with performances this Friday and Saturday night.

The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange has been exploring global issues through performance since 1976, and has produced over one hundred dance pieces. The intergenerational dance company aims to increase awareness of and community involvement in world matters through movement and art, while altering our understanding of and expectations for contemporary dance. Many of the company’s works address explicitly scientific issues; in 2008, Lerman began work on a piece called The Matter of Origins for which she and a team of dancers visited the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

It’s been four years since the Dance Exchange last came to Wesleyan, with the University-sponsored “Ferocious Beauty: Genome,” a project that explored genetics and ethics. Developed in collaboration with Wesleyan researchers in the life sciences, the multi-media dance work was a stunning success, and has been nationally touring since its Wesleyan premiere. Lerman has continued her relationship with the University, working with the Hughes Program, a University-run grant intended to promote the life sciences, to turn “Ferocious Beauty” into a digital textbook.

This time, as part of the University’s Feet to the Fire: Feast or Famine exploration, the Dance Exchange will be performing the works of some of its younger choreographers, including Cassie Meador, who, with College of the Environment Professor Barry Chernoff, co-taught a tropical biology course at Wesleyan in spring 2009. Meador’s Drift explores our changing relationship with food and our planet through theater and dance.

“It’s a fun journey that’s serious in its intent,” Tatge said.

Drift follows an area of land in Meador’s Georgia hometown that undergoes conversions from farmland to mall to house of worship over the course of one hundred years.

“It went from farm, to Piggly Wiggly, to church,” Tatge said. “Both the music and movement draw from popular forms of the time, and are integrated into a whole that is wistful, poetic and humorous.”

The Wesleyan community will get a sneak peek of Meador’s work in progress, “How to Lose a Mountain,” which chronicles her journey as she walks from her home in Washington, D.C., to the mountain in Virginia that’s being strip mined to provide energy. Also on the bill is Keith Thompson’s “Blueprints of Relentless Nature,” a movement piece.

“It’s athletic, it’s virtuosic, it’s high energy and high intellect,” Tatge said.

Artists like those in the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange are becoming increasingly important agents in the battle for our changing planet.

“The science world is discovering that they’re having trouble communicating the importance of powerful contemporary issues,” Tatge said. “The arts are a way of communicating and understanding that can move people to take notice, and in some cases, action.”

The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange will be performing at the CFA Theater at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, October 1 and 2. Tickets are $8 for Wesleyan students. There will be pre-performance talk at 7:15 p.m. on Friday in the CFA Hall.

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