Lisa Nelson
Experimental Choreographer and Dancer
East Charleston, VT
2020 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by the Barr Foundation.

Lisa Nelson is a choreographer, improvisational performer, videographer, collaborative artist, editor, publisher, and educator who has been exploring the role of the senses in the performance and observation of movement for nearly five decades. Improvisational dance, which posits values of collaboration, dialogue, and flexible survival strategies (both biological and cultural), has been at the core of her artistic research and practice.

An immersion in portable video technology in the 70s led her to develop a radical approach to real-time editing, communication, and the sense of imagination that she named “Tuning Scores.” As an aesthetic game and performance practice, it unites dance with the performance of observation and has been adapted into dance practices and multi-disciplinary collaborations on many continents.

Since 1976, she has co-edited and published the independent dancer-written Contact Quarterly dance and improvisation journal, a forty-five-year archive of movement experience and exploration. Her writings appear in numerous journals and books.

She maintains long-term collaborations, including with Steve Paxton, who was instrumental in developing a worldwide network of workshops for independent dance artists, and founded Videoda in 1978, a documentation project for improvisational dance. Among many encouragements, she received a NY “Bessie” Award in 1987 and an Alpert Award in the Arts in 2002.

Currently, she is developing two digital publications with the Brussels publisher, Contredanse, that invite a wider public into the innate creativity and pleasure of their senses of movement and touch.

Nelson lives and farms in Vermont.

Portrait photo by Rebecca Bryant.

  • Artwork by Lisa Nelson
    Last Suite on the Left, 2002. ImageTanz Festival, Vienna.
  • Artwork by Lisa Nelson
    Enter The Image, 2012. Tuning Score Observatory. Choreographic Center, Montpelier, France. Photo by Franck Beaubois.
Artwork by Lisa Nelson Artwork by Lisa Nelson