Q&A with Benjamin Wegman of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange

The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange will perform “The Matter of Origins” for one night, April 11, at ASU Gammage. Benjamin Wegman spoke with The State Press about his experience dancing in the hadron collider at CERN in Switzerland and about the show that’s coming to ASU.

The State Press: You’ve been with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange for a while now, correct?

Benjamin Wegman: I have — for almost four years as a full-time company member.

SP: How did you get involved?

BW: I actually met the dance exchange through school. So, I was attending Point Park University, and some company members came and made a work on us, and I was involved in that process… I had to audition to be in that work through school, so that was totally an experience through school.

SP: You performed at the hadron collider at CERN in Switzerland. What was that experience like?

BW: Being at CERN was really mind-blowing. It was really at the sort of beginning of the process of making this work that we’re performing now… It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen or anywhere you’ve ever been.

SP: How many people did you perform for there?

BW: We didn’t actually perform per say. It was a lot of dancing in the moment and being recorded. It wasn’t a formal performance, but… we would show up and be one of the magnets, and I would throw on a costume. We had a videographer with us who would start just directing in the moment, and we would do things while 40-50-60 technicians and workers that were just there, and they would stop and watch. It was a lot of informal performance that happened.

SP: Is the show that you’re doing at ASU completely based around that experience?

BW: We have a lot of content that we started working on when we were at CERN, and a lot of the ideas within the work come from the synthesis and the work that’s happening over there, but I wouldn’t say that the work is solely based on us being at CERN.

SP: Have you had a favorite performance or experience since you’ve started dancing?

BW: Not to just be plugging work, but I do really, really love this “Matter of Origins.” It’s the first work that I’ve ever… [seen] from sort of beginning inception period all the way through, seeing it and perform[ing] for the floor. I really love the work. I do think it’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever been in… It’s been a three-year arc to make this piece. So, I’ve never been in anything... of this scale.

SP: How are people responding to the show?

BW: People are really excited for the work. I mean it’s a little difference than your normal performance. The first half happens in the theater, much like any modern dance work, but the second act, you actually leave the theater, and you go to… a different room… In Arizona, we’ll be going to different rooms… You go to Edith Warner’s tea house, and you are guiding to conversations at tables. You [drink] tea, you eat cake. You get to respond to what you saw in the first act as well as still have dance and performance happen around you. So, it’s a really different experience for people. We actually had someone at Montclair recently who said it was the first time she felt like she had ever been taken seriously as an audience member. So, I really loved that.

SP: Do you feel like it’s a piece that is theater for social change?

BW: I think — yes. I think what makes the work really different is that, a, it will help people to communicate and engage about what they’ve seen and make connections… I think we give permission to make their own connections and then share those connections. I think that by giving people [permission] to make connections… they come away from the piece understanding more, finding more meaning in it, really grasping concepts that they might not have got in a dark theater. I think we’re also finding that it actually leads to better conversations after.

More information and tickets can be found and purchased online at asugammage.com, over the phone at 1-800-982-ARTS (2787) or in person by visiting the ASU Gammage box office.

Reach the reporter at mmattox@asu.edu

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