Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
There are few choreographers in Washington or anywhere else these days with quite the unbridled imagination and conceptual range of Liz Lerman, so the introduction of her new larger-scale work at her refurnished Dance Exchange studio Thursday night was decidedly an event - and, as it turned out, a richely rewarding one.
In 1947. Doris Humphrey created a dance classic called "Day on Earth" which depicted, in Humphrey's typically humanistic fashion, the biologic and emotional life cycle of a symbolic family of four. Lerman's new opus, "Elevator Operators and Other Strangers" takes a similarly sweeping view but this time of the white-collar urban sweatshops of our post-industrial 70s.
She peoples her dance canvas with mothers, secretaries, typist, maintenance workers, patients and their shrinks, joggers and advertising executives, all of them harried denizens of an imaginary modern office building portrayed by Harry Belanger, one of the senoir citizens Lerman likes to recruit into performance - is the emblem of a passing world. In the end, his job is "modernized" out of existence by the implacable " advance" of the commercial steamroller.
That penultimate scene is full of pathos, and the work may sound rather grim. This is far from the case: the entirety is lit by the glaze of Lerman's very special satirical humor, and the ending itself is almost Humphreyesque, the performers circling the stage with comradely looks, clasping each other by the hand.
Lerman's idiom is by means conventional. Because she believes dance is everybody's business, the cast of 15 includes young and old, trained and untrained, and they not only dance but sing, speak and act as well all much abetted by Wyn Meyerson and John Ramo's cannily eclectric musical score and Keith Goodman's prestochango costumes. The performance runs three weekends to April 30.