Liz Lerman has been waging a one-woman campaign to make the '80s the decade that put social content back into art. Last night, Lerman's company, the Dance Exchange, was joined by other area dance groups at the Lansburgh Building for a concert exploring the relationship between politics and art. The evening's premise was that all art, because it exists in social context, is automatically political.
With the national media attention showered upon her "Docudance," danced to David Stockman's controversial Atlantic interview, Lerman found herself with an overflow and enthusiastic crowd eager to buy her message. "Docudance," however, never simply proselytizes. Sparing artists no less than she spares politicians, Lerman saves some of her best kinetic and verbal wit for artists who simply want to make people forget the world and for those whose activism extends only as far as the stage. Irreverent, biting and witty, "Docudance" is ultimately lots of fun. And what might be the ultimate test for political art, it is engaging even for those not politically in sympathy with its message.
It was the stirring performance of Erika Thimey's "A Fear Not of One" that pointed up the relation of the evening's content to that generated by dance and theater in the '30s with the Federal Theater Project and political choreographers like Anna Sokolow. In introducing this dance concerned with nuclear destruction, the Wigman-trained Thimey pointed out her debt to the Bennington School, a cradle of modern American dance, where experiments with the spoken word often ran to satire and political themes.
The evening ended on an upbeat, offbeat note as Lerman, practicing what she preaches, urged audience involvement in humming and miming "The Star-Spangled Banner."