Jon Lehrer energizes dance department

Sarah Hlusko PhotoSarah Hlusko Photo

Jon Lehrer, a respected dance instructor, came to Mercyhurst early last week to give a master class that gave a whole new outlook to movement and the way the body works.
Approximately 35 dance students and faculty filled the dance space in anticipation for the master class. The group could chat, laugh and stretch at their own leisure while a few faculty members help set up the equipment.

John Lehrer walked into the space and a sudden silence filled the room, an obvious sign of respect for the veteran performer.

Raised in Queens, Lehrer took his first dance class as a dare from his girlfriend at the time. After receiving a passing grade in the course, he knew that dance was right for him. He has his B.F.A. in Dance from the University of Buffalo, and in 1994 received a scholarship to the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival where he had the chance to study with highly revered faculty including Carolyn Adams, Danny Grossman and Mark Morris. Lehrer’s first professional company membership was with the John Passafiume Dancers located in New York City.

In 1995, Lehrer was hired by the renowned Erick Hawkins Dance Company and toured the world, performing modern dance works for the next year. Lehrer then auditioned and got accepted into Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago (GJDC), the world’s most prominent dance company. He quickly moved up the ladder and became Associate Director of the company. Along with his outstanding works for the GJDC, Lehrer has choreographed works for many well-known dance companies across the United States, as well as those in Mexico and Russia.

In 2002 and 2004, Lehrer was one of four choreographers selected to lead the first ever Dance Chicago Choreography Project. He continues to travel the world to give master classes to university dance companies. Lehrer is on the Advisory Board of Dance Spirit Magazine and was featured on the November 2007 cover of Dance Teacher Magazine. Last here in 2000, Lehrer taught an entirely new class of dance majors, although he’s used to our facilities.

He was incredibly experienced in his field, displaying it through his teachings. He held himself in front of the group, and also in the information he gave to the group.“There is no such thing as a straight line, but the body can grow and move to give the elusion of a straight line,” Lehrer said, having the students stretch and go through routines of movement. He went on to describe an idea he called “Organic Athleticism.”

This idea is to not go harder, faster or stronger, but to promote flexibility and fluid motion so that a performer could make themselves into a “pretzel or a bow.” He used more mainstream terms in teaching the students to move fluidly such as “release” instead of “relevé”, which means to rise or a raising of the body. The big message of the class was to not cut corners. Use momentum and the bodies’ natural movement to keep a healthy, breezy performance.