Ligia Lewis is a choreographer and dancer whose genre-defying works have thrust dance into the realm of contemporary art, and vice versa. If, as theorist Bojana Kunst posits, dance allows us to “challenge the ways in which bodies assemble and participate,” Lewis’ oeuvre offers a compelling response. Her practice, broadly speaking, engages with affect and embodiment, exploring the ways in which our bodies record and resist dominance. Recognizing that polarities are often inextricably intertwined, Lewis works chart the entanglement between the utopic and dystopic. Across her practice, Lewis is building what she describes as a “fugitive choreography,” challenging performance to animate the psychic dimensions of being and movement.
Lewis spent five years—from 2014 to 2018—composing a widely-lauded trilogy comprised of Sorrow Swag (2014); minor matter (2016); and Water Will (in Melody) (2018). Each work took on a hue of the American flag, beginning with blue, continuing with red, and ending with white. Water Will (in Melody) was created at Callie’s between July and December of 2018, and uses the Brothers Grimm tale “The Willful Child” to explore ideas of strength, agency and desire. By borrowing from the tradition of mime, Lewis’ choreography captures the alienation of subjective realities, calling into question the assumption of reality itself. Water Will uses the genre of melodrama to explore racialized and gendered readings of extreme, unchecked emotions. The trilogy as a whole exhibits Lewis’ unique ability to transform her subject matter into a visceral experience—ultimately confronting an audience with what Catherine Damman writes is “distinctively, brutally American”.
Lewis has collaborated with musical artist Twin Shadow, visual artist Wu Tsang, and with the DJ collective NON Worldwide. Lewis is the recipient of a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants Award (2018) and a Bessie Award for Outstanding Production for minor matter (2017). She was a visiting artist and professor in the Alma M. Hawkins Memorial Chair at UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures Department in 2019.