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About the Toolbox

The Dance Exchange Toolbox contains instructions for a variety of art-making techniques and concise descriptions of principles and practices. In Toolbox Essays and Tools in Action on the D|Lab, you will find additional content exploring the theory, background and applications of many of these ideas.

About the origins of the Toolbox and Dance Exchange’s tool-based practice, founder Liz Lerman has written the following about the choreographic process she established early in her career:

...Even when they mastered the steps, the dancers did not have the relationship to the movement that made them feel passionate about it. And without that passion, they could not perform it with conviction.

So I began to experiment with a different method for generating movement, posing questions that required the dancers to respond physically. I discovered that dancers who were thus engaged were much more invested as performers. ... Soon I was driven not by the impulse to generate movement on my own body, but by a search to discover questions and structures that would help inventive people find physical answers and stories inside themselves.

The questions and structures were among Liz Lerman's first tools, and became the cornerstone of the Dance Exchange’s approach to choreography, teaching, and community engagement.

Not for Dancers Only
These tools have their origins in choreographic and community practice, and can be broadly applied in the process of making dances. But they are not just for dance artists. Many of the tools and foundations included in the Dance Exchange Online Toolbox have been used by such varied practitioners as theater makers, visual artists, rabbis, youth workers, dialogue facilitators and writing teachers. We encourage users to adapt the tools to their own needs.

An Expanding Resource
The Toolbox was first introduced in 2004 as a dimension of the Dance Exchange’s website, and is now incorporated into D|Lab where the structure offers more options for interaction and expansion. The tools, foundations, essays and other resources currently on this site represent just a fraction of the Dance Exchange’s body of knowledge. We have well-tested techniques that are still waiting to be added to the site, and we are developing more tools with each new project. The Exchange Online Toolbox is a growing compilation that we will be expanding with regular updates.

The Dance Exchange Online Toolbox was conceived by Liz Lerman and is edited by John Borstel. Liz Lerman and John Borstel are primary authors of the content on this site, with additional contributions from Peter DiMuro, Margot Greenlee, Jeffrey Gunshol, Elizabeth Johnson, Celeste Miller, Michelle Pearson, Allison Soffer, Bea Wattenberg, and Martha Wittman.