Quick Q&A: Jon Lehrer

January 11, 2010

Jon Lehrer started a new adventure in Buffalo, NY, in July 2007. LehrerDance made an exciting showing in Chicago last November (see the reviews online at dancemagazine.com/reviews). Last month the company made its official debut at his soon to be home at The Center for the Arts at the University at Buffalo. Lehrer toured with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company and John Passafiume Dancers before joining Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, where he rose to the level of associate director. He visited with Buffalo native Nancy Wozny to catch her up on this next chapter in his dance life.

What are the basic concepts of your technique?

There are three: circularity, three-dimensionality, and momentum. Everything is a circle; there is no such thing as a straight line on our bodies. We are made up of curves, arcs, and circles. We move three-dimensionally; we use our backs all the time to accomplish this. I tell the dancers, “Show me your back, forget your front, it will take care of itself.” Especially when facing the audience, the back must shine through. We use momentum to propel us, no muscles, all physics. You get one force in the rehearsal, all the rest is momentum, and you just need to ride the wave.

You are not big on labels, especially the jazz label. Why?

I want LehrerDance to be self-defining. I don’t want preconceived notions of what we do. Because of my background in modern and jazz I will use whatever idiom suits the particular piece I am creating.

How do influences from Hawkins and Giordano play out in your work?

The circle theory comes from Hawkins’ ideas. From Giordano I got a real sense of accessibility in choreography. I always give the Giordanos (Nan Giordano specifically) the credit for cultivating me as a choreographer, teacher, and dancer. I like to use the approach of Hawkins in our movement combined with the excitement and athleticism of the Giordano style.

How did you know it was the right time to start your own company?

After 10 years with Giordano I felt I had cultivated my craft as a choreographer enough to take the next step. I always knew I wanted my own company with all my choreography. But I knew I needed to hone my skills and find my voice before I jumped into it. Being the associate director at Giordano, I learned a lot about the business side.

Why locate in Buffalo?

That’s simple Business 101: supply and demand. Starting a company in a big city that has many companies is silly. Also, Buffalo trains great dancers and they all leave. I want to help make Buffalo a destination city for pros, not a departure city.

Talk about your relationship with the University at Buffalo.

It’s where I took my very first dance class. We hope to become the resident dance company. Currently, we offer company class to students there. My long-term goal is to incorporate the LehrerDance technique into the dance curriculum and institute an internship or training program for handpicked seniors so they can experience a professional working environment.

How do you balance touring with home turf performing?

They feed off each other. We tour a lot, especially for a company that just started last year. When we have our home seasons we will bring that experience to Buffalo. We want Buffalo to see us as their dance company; we proudly carry Buffalo with us everywhere we go, and we want Buffalo to be proud they have us as ambassadors.

What’s on your choreographic plate at the moment?

I am working on a rock opera, An American Siddhartha: The Way Within. A grand piece needs a grand name. I read Siddhartha three years ago and knew I had found a subject for a new piece. The story of a young person trying to find the truth in a world that often hides it is universal and timeless. It’s about finding peace from within, not from outside influences.

Why a rock opera?

I believe the style of rock opera fits the story. I discovered classic rock when I was 8. It’s awesome and works perfectly for modern dance.


Photo by KC Kratt, Courtesy
Dance Teacher