Liz Maxwell

Liz Maxwell

Associate Professor
College of Performing Arts; Department of Dance
Expertise: Somatic Disciplines; Choreography; Dance Aesthetics;
Office Location: Sandi Simon Center for Dance 015
Phone: 714-744-7073
Scholarly Works:
Digital Commons
The Juilliard School, Bachelor of Fine Arts
University of Washington, Master of Fine Arts


Liz Maxwell, MFA, CLMA, RSME, is an associate professor of dance at Chapman University, specializing in teaching somatic disciplines, modern dance techniques, dance history, and choreography. She received her BFA in Dance from The Juilliard School of Music. There, she worked with such leading figures as Hanya Holm, Paul Taylor, Daniel Lewis, Kazuko Hirabayashi, Alfredo Corvino, Anna Sokolow, and Martha Hill. Upon graduation she continued her performance studies in New York with Dan Wagoner, Jocelyn Lorenz, Alfredo Corvino, Irene Hultman, Vicky Shick, Merce Cunningham, Mel Wong, and Maggie Black.

As a performer, Liz focused on concert dance in New York and performed and toured in the companies of Laura Dean, Lucinda Childs, Donald Byrd, Ton Simons, and Kenneth Rinker, traveling throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan. While in New York she also performed with Neil Greenberg, Elisa Monte, Bill Young, and in Trisha Brown’s first apprentice group. She has performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The New York State Theatre, The Kennedy Center, The Joyce Theatre, Dance Theatre Workshop, American Dance Festival, Aaron Davis Hall, and in the televised performance of Dancing in the Streets at Grand Central Station. As a performer, Liz was part of two Bessie Award-winning performances. These yearly awards, also titled New York Dance and Performance Awards, were given for Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians for the dance Impact and also for the production of The Minstrel Show created by Donald Byrd/The Group. Most recently Liz performed her solo Return, which employs spoken word, improvisation, and "found" movement theories at WAXworks-Williamsburg Art neXus in Greenpoint, New York.  

Liz went on to earn her MFA in Dance at the University of Washington’s unique “returning professional” program where she honed an interest in dance aesthetics and philosophy. While attending UW, she was a member of the Chamber Dance Ensemble, a company dedicated to the preservation and reconstruction of historically significant dance works, and there performed in seminal works by Isadora Duncan, Danny Buraczeski, Louis Falco, Doris Humphrey, Laura Dean, and Zvi Gotheiner. Liz has taught in many dance programs such as The California Institute of the Arts, Loyola Marymount University, CalPoly-Pomona, Rio Hondo College, UC Riverside, California State University—Long Beach, Scripps College, and Pomona College. Her choreography has been presented in California by The Downtown Playhouse, The Fountain Theatre, LACE, The LA Edge Festival, Angel’s Gate Cultural Center, The Shoshana Wayne Gallery, as well as many college dance programs. In California, Liz has performed with Pacific Dance Ensemble, Trip Dance Theatre, The Yorke Dance Project, Ruth Barnes and Dancers, bodytalkdance, the Joe Goode Performance Group, and the CalArts Dance Ensemble.

In addition, she is a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA) through Integrated Movement Studies (IMS), and a Registered Somatic Movement Educator (RSME) through the International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association (ISMETA). Current research projects include papers, workshops, and performances presented at The Congress on Research in Dance, The Society of Dance History Scholars, Motus Humanus, American College Dance Festival Association (ACDFA), National Dance Education Organization (NDEO), and she chaired a recent panel for NDEO and ISMETA's special topic on somatics which she titled "If They Build it...Will They Come? How to Integrate Somatic Education into Post-Secondary Dance Curriculum."  Liz has traveled to Rudolf Laban's birthplace of Slovakia to present her paper “University Dance and the De-Construction of a Modern Dance Language," outlining her interests in dance training. Liz’s professional work includes serving as a reconstructor of Laura Dean’s work and in researching trends in dance pedagogy as it relates to the preservation and relevance of dance repertory in the university setting. She lives in Altadena, CA with her two sons, Julian and Jonah, and has been a member of the Chapman faculty since 2005.   


Recent Creative, Scholarly Work and Publications

Wrote a recommendation for Bull Frog films, an educational video/film company. The recommendations were for an offering of a documentary on the making of August Pace: 1989-2019” Educational DVD. This is a dance by Merce Cunningham that is filmed as it is being taught 30 years later by the original cast to its’ new dancers. My recommendation was excerpted into a blurb that is featured in the promotional materials. The blurb reads, “An illustration in the seldom witnessed process of restaging dance choreography.” The whole review: “August Pace is an illustration in the seldom witnessed process of restaging dance choreography. We witness the challenges felt by the young performers and their teachers in surprisingly human ways. It also paints the picture of the choices, potentials, and realities of dancers during their performance and post-performance careers as it unearths the grace, elegance, and a knowing in the physical transmission of image from one generation to another.”
I fortunately was able to present virtually at the Evans Somatic Dance Institute: 9th Annual Somatics Dance Conference, In Port Townsend, Washington when I contracted Covid over the summer for the first time. My offering was a workshop and paper on “Teaching Presence in the Era of the Competitive Dancer.”
This year I choreographed a new work for eleven for the Fall Faculty Dance Concert along with Ido Tadmor, Dwight Rhoden, Alicia Benneche, Zachary Groenewold as well as Megan Doheny who was a guest choreographer and former student at Chapman who I had the pleasure of teaching in Choreography I. The work entitled, “Everybody for 10 Minutes,” was a ten-minute dance that also used improvised spoken word. The music composition was also a collaboration and was commissioned by one of our accompanists, Brian Wood, with whom I’ve worked before. It was a contemplative and hypnotic background for the sometimes chaotic and mood shifting landscape of the dance. This dance was reimagined for the annual Dance Tour class for seniors. The dance was reduced in time to 4 minutes and to only include seniors, which made this dance for eleven, a trio. This action was essentially as if creating a new dance since the original group of eleven provided lots of opportunities to create “landscape” type of effects. As a trio, I needed to highlight the individual performers since I could no longer rely on the landscaping effect of many dancers and the lighting effects of the Musco stage. This allowed for a very nice show piece for the dancers and extended their skill set since we employed, in both versions, improvised spoken word in the dance, which challenged them to expand their experiences and their talents.
In the late summer, I began a wonderful project, initiated and directed by Nicholas Terry that was performed in September along with Michael Nehring, Ivan Magrin-Chagnolleau as collaborators. This rhythmic mediation was entitled “A Seeming Stillness” and was performed on Labor Day at Monk’s Space in downtown Los Angeles. This was a true collaboration between us. I performed in select moments of an hour-long presentation musical creation and performance by Nick. I performed with an improvised score that I created and choreographed. One of the most interesting aspects was a dance film that Ivan and I created to be projected simultaneously with the performance to create an interplay of associations and visual imagery with the material. With Michael supplying the vocal performance along with the music and the film, I performed a visual expression of the music and the words. This was an immersive and quite interesting interdisciplinary experience and one that Nick Terry and I have been gratified to experience again as a testament to our earlier projects with our course, “The Collaborative Spirit” which fused our interest in interdisciplinarity with our curriculum and teaching innovations.
Throughout the year, I attended some of the excellent master classes taught by guest instructors to the dance department such as Michaela Taylor, Lula Washington, Talia La Paz and Michael Gettman. In March, I participated and performed with the students in the weeklong “Masters at Chapman” dance residency. The dance and spoken word performance, much of which was improvisational, was a wonderful experience to share with approximately 20 students and 2 other adjunct dance faculty members, Liz Curtis and Tomas Tamayo and accompanist, Brian Wood.
In October, I attended and presented at the National Dance Educators Organization (NDEO), the yearly conference for K-12 and post-secondary educators. This 4-day conference was held virtually on the theme of “Telling Our Stories: The Essentiality of Dance Education in Changing Times.” This paper presentation entitled, “Taking the Eeeck Out of Critique: Changing the Conversation with Words” was a reaction to comments between teachers and their students that are often unintentionally authoritative and/or off-putting. I heard stories from students about their own most recent experiences with teacher comments or requests that made them feel negatively about themselves. I also looked carefully at both my own experiences and what I’ve learned reflexively from my own teachers to say to students, or about them. This paper was quite well-received from my colleagues at the conference and garnered a very interested question and answer session at the end.
Last year, (2021) The Fall Faculty Concert presented a mixed bill with faculty and, unusually, with student presentations. This decision was made due to the truncated student mainstage performance (Covid limitations) form the spring prior. This was a wonderful gesture, yet muted some of the focus on faculty work and on the guest masterwork that I had shepherded through to performance for over 3 years. This work, “Esplanade” by Paul Taylor, was finally performed with live music graciously provided by Bob Becker’s musical group for this 20th century masterwork. We all worked together, (I was rehearsal director) in finding not only the optimal placement of the musicians on the stage but the most apropos arrangements of the music for the needs of the dancers. This legacy project began before Covid with the first Grant Writing Bootcamp and was awarded $5000 in support of the licensing rights and the personnel for expert staging, in addition to the requisite production needs.
This dance performance of "One Minute(s)" performed at Musco, was created as an homage to Marcel Duchamp who championed new processes that involved duration, measurements, and chance methods. His work in the visual and conceptual arts was also the predecessor to many late 20th century artists, notably John Cage and Merce Cunningham in the respective fields of music and dance. My dance commissioned 9 one minute musical compositions from Brian Wood, a longtime Chapman collaborator and accompanist. My dance, which played with the idea of vignettes, props, timing, and chess was also another way to illuminate connections to this important artist who also notably, played chess almost exclusively, later in his life.
I’ve used new forms of technology as a choreographer for this past years’ Fall Faculty Dance Concert in the Musco, I created a dance, “Yes, No, Maybe…” in collaboration with senior dance major, Azuki Umeda who was tasked with filming the dance to create a virtual look of the dance while the dance was happening live on stage. . By exploiting virtual technologies I was able to somehow suggest both what has happened and what IS happening, a simple way of conjuring both past and present. To describe a part of the dance will help to share the possibilities of this type of inquiry. The last moment shifted the film from the outside perspective of the audience’s gaze to a film image of what the dancers see when looking out into the audience and into the backstage spaces. That gave a dizzying and equally surprising quality as everyone had to figure out how the film and the dance could be happening simultaneously. In the last moment the focus again shifted to another dancer which helped the audience solve the mystery of what they were seeing and that the camera was indeed giving us the feeling of being onstage with the dancers. This became a very successful collaboration and was the inspiration for another proposal that we worked on during Spring 2020. This project is also an extension of my interests in the historical developments since the 1960’s and still pushes the envelope in much of today’s art. I researched work that embraces today’s dance ideology and technologies.
This performance entitled "Three Moments of Grief" was organized by Tamiko Washington along with Susan Keys. The performers included current students and faculty. I performed a dance reconstruction by Isadora Duncan, "Mother" and was accompanied by Louise Thomas on piano. This performance included lecture/demonstration from all the participants and was held in the Fish Interfaith Hall.
This was a panel discussion on the Art and Science of Teaching Dance held at the Desert Dance Festival at New Mexico State University. My discussion centered on The Relevance of Somatic-Based Dance Pedagogy in a Changing World. The performance that followed illuminated these such themes in dance training with a dance performed with 3 Chapman Students titled, "Outside/In."
My Creative/Scholarly work this year, was begun in the Spring semester with proposals written and accepted for The International Dance Science and Pedagogy Conference, focusing on The Art and Science of Teaching Dance held at New Mexico State University in July. The proposal grew out of some projects that my students and I initiated through the course Somatics. To attend this conference with me, the students were awarded an Undergraduate Student Scholarly Research and Creative Activity Grant through Chapman. The project was both a performance of 3 students and myself which required advance work; (rehearsals and research) carried out in spring 2017. Our performance in July was very well received and thought to be one of the most topical projects presented at the festival.
"The Weight of Things" a dance choreographed on Chapman dance students, performed in the Musco Theatre and was an homage to 9/11 first responders.
"To Lead is to Follow..." is a dance performance I created for the Fall Concert at Chapman University for our first concert in the Musco Theatre for 10 students.
This was a solo dance performance entitled "Return" and was presented and curated by WAXworks and performed at the Triskelion Theatre in New York on June 28, 2015. This solo represents my on-going practice and interest with improvisational elements; such as dialogue, rhythmic timing and meaning, incorporated into a dance work. This dance is an amalgam of words, embodiment, analysis and performance meant to be "read" from a variety of perspectives.
I was to perform in one of three Choreographers Showcase that presented alumni from the dance program at the University of Washington in professional venues attached to the conference and workshops entitled, "Opening Doors: Celebrating 50 Years of Dance at the UW" from October 16-20, 2015. I was to perform my solo,"Return" However, I injured my hip at the dress rehearsal and was unable to perform in the showcase.
Congress on Research in Dance Conference. Theme: Tactical Bodies: The Choreography of Non-Dancing Subjects. Survey and Paper Presentation, "Choreographic Offerings: Examining the Hidden Agendas in Dance Concert Programming in Higher Education."
The dance, "Vantage Point" was created in collaboration with 10 Chapman Dance Majors and featured a commissioned music score by New York dance composer, Mio Morales.
Dance Kinesiology Teacher's Group Conference. Paper - "Curricular Programming to Facilitate Somatic and Anatomical Awareness in Higher Education."
"MinEvent" by Merce Cunningham performed by Chapman Dance students in the Fall Concert. Rehearsal Direction/Staging.
"The Collaborative Spirit: An Evening of Music and Dance" is an Interdisciplinary Dance and Music concert created in conjunction with the Conservatory of Music, specifically the Percussion Ensemble directed by Nick Terry. This production involved staging, reconstruction, choreography, and direction. It featured the creation of a new dance, "Impetus II," for 24 dancers and 8 live musicians as well as two pieces from the repertoire of Merce Cunningham and Jiri Kylian, two of the most famous innovators of the Twentieth Century.
National Dance Education Organization yearly conference on Dance Education. Paper presentation, "Bringing Music and Dance Together in the 21st Century."
The International Journal of the Humanities an article entitled "Decisions in Art Making: An Illustration Through Dance." Common Ground Press.
"The Power of a Name." A performance of "Return" including an interactive lecture and power point presentation.
Society of Dance History Scholars/Dance Critics Association, Paper - "Random-Access Repertory: New Imperatives for Teaching Our Dance Histories in the Millennium."
A solo performance, "Return" a dance performed at an international somatics festival, SomaFest held in Los Angeles.
"Impetus" is a dance I choreographed for Chapman University's Fall Faculty Concert.
"Liz Maxwell In Concert: Collected Performance from a Dancer's Life." A solo concert with Chapman students providing research and commentary between acts.
Staged and Rehearsal Directed a performance of "Breath of Fire," a dance by Laura Dean for Elon University.
Invention-In: Dance, Somatics and Movement Analysis Conference Performance of "Return."
"11 x 12 by Ten" is a dance that I choreographed for Chapman University's Fall Faculty concert.