Ralph Lemon

Ralph Lemon is choreographer, writer, visual artist, and curator, and the Artistic Director of Cross Performance, a company dedicated to the creation of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary performance and presentation. His most recent works include Scaffold Room (2015), Four Walls (2012), and How Can You Stay in The House All Day And Not Go Anywhere? (2008-2010), a work with live performance, film and visual art that toured throughout the U.S. The immersive visual art installation, Meditation, which was part of How Can You Stay, was acquired for the permanent collection of the Walker Arts Center in 2012.  In January 2011, a re-imagined section of How Can You Stay was per-formed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in conjunction with On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century.  Mr. Lemon curated the fall 2012 performance series “Some sweet day” at MOMA, and the acclaimed 2010 performance series “I Get Lost” at Danspace Project in NYC.  His solo visual art exhibitions include: 1856 Cessna Road at Studio Museum in Harlem, NYC (2012); How Can You Stay In The House All Day And Not Go Anywhere?, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2010); (the efflorescence of) Walter, Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans (2008), The Kitchen, NYC (2007) and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2006); The Geography Trilogy, Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT (2001); and Temples, Margaret Bodell Gallery, NYC (2000).  His group exhibitions include: Move: Choreographing You, Hayward Gallery, London, UK and The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl, Nasher Museum at Duke University, Durham, NC.  In 2012, Mr. Lemon was honored with one of the first Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards; he was also one of the first artists to receive the United States Artists Fellowship (2006).  He is recipient of three "Bessie" Awards (1986, 2005, 2016); two Foundation for Contemporary Art Awards (1986, 2012); two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships (2004, 2009); a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship; a 2004 Bellagio Study Center Fellowship; and the 1999 CalArts Alpert Award.  Among his many teaching positions, Mr. Lemon has been an IDA Fellow at Stanford University (2009); artist-in-residence at Temple University (2005-06); Miller Endowment Visiting Artist at the Krannert Center (2004); Fellow of the Humanities Council and Program in Theater & Dance at Princeton University (2002); and Associate Artist at Yale Repertory Theatre (1996-2000). For the fall 2011 semester he was a Visiting Critic with the Yale University, School of Art, Sculpture Dept. He was the 2014 Annenberg Fellow at the Museum of Modern Art, where he curated a series of “performance essays,” titled, Value Talks. In 2015 he was a Mellon Foundation Visiting Artist Fellow at Columbia University. He is currently Professor of Practice of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University, and a Visual Arts Mentor at Columbia University School of the Arts. His book, Come home Charley Patton, the final in a series documenting The Geography Trilogy, was published in 2013 by Wesleyan University Press. He was short-listed for the 2016 Guggenheim Hugo Boss Prize and received a 2015 National Medal of Arts from president, Barack Obama. The first monograph of his work was published by The Museum Of Modern Art (part of their new Modern Dance Series) in 2016.

Living Legacy | January 1 - 8, 2018

Saturnalia (working title)

Ralph Lemon returned to MANCC with choreographer/dancer Darrell Jones to work on his new project Saturnalia (working title) that evolved from earlier works including 4walls, which was developed, in part, at MANCC and premiered in 2012 at The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (EMPAC) in Troy, NY. 4walls is a live-dance/film work that, in turn, evolved from two other earlier works, Wall/hole, and the Award-winning 2010 How Can You Stay in The House and Not Go Anywhere?, also developed, in part, at MANCC.

Lemon and Jones revisited and expanded upon these works and the ideas circulating within them in this residency. Inspired by the pre-christian tradition of slaves and masters trading roles during the pagan agricultural celebration, Saturnalia, Lemon and Jones envisioned this enlightened notion of power structures in our contemporary context. Dramaturg Katherine Profeta who has worked with Lemon on his various projects beginning in 1997, joined him and Jones for the last two days of the residency.

  • Darrell Jones in residence for <i>Saturnalia</i>
  • Ralph Lemon and and Jones
  • Jones and Lemon
  • Jones and Lemon
  • Lemon and Jones
  • Ralph Lemon
  • Lemon talks with dramaturg Katherine Profeta
Collaborators in Residence: Darrell Jones [Performer], Katherine Profeta [Dramaturg]

Living Legacy | February 16 - March 1, 2014

Scaffold Room

Living Legacy artist Ralph Lemon returned to MANCC to work on Scaffold Room, the newest chapter in a decade-long narrative linking Lemon and a group of artistic collaborators in New York City with a community in rural Mississippi.  Scaffold Room is Lemon’s latest experiment with the boundaries of form and presentation, merging dance with visual installation. Performed with a live DJ, two dancers/actors and video projections featuring a third actor, Scaffold Room takes the form of a "performance-lecture-musical" within a confined, built environment.

At MANCC, Lemon was able to develop the video and sound elements of Scaffold Room, including sessions in the School of Dance recording studio.  He worked with dramaturg, Katherine Profeta to refine the thematic and text components.  Lemon also worked with long time collaborator and MANCC Choreographic Fellow, Okwui Okpokwasili and performer April Matthis. Together Matthis, Okpokwasili and Edna Carter on video (the wife of the late Walter Carter, a former sharecropper who lived his entire life in Bentonia, MS), represent three women who act out and play into assumptions about prevailing cultural body-politics.  They enact iconic and imagined figures with sources drawn from popular culture, speculative fiction and history, including Beyoncé, Moms Mabley, Amy Winehouse and Kathy Acker.

Lemon shared a work-in-progress showing with School of Dance students and faculty near the end of the residency.  FSU School of Theater gradaute student Matt Pedersen assisted Lemon with costuming concepts and School of Dance senior and MANCC intern, Kristen Bernier, spent the period of Lemon’s residency serving as a studio assistant.  Read more about Bernier's experience under Entrypoints. 

Scaffold Room premiered at The Walker Art Center in September 26-28, 2014

  • Lemon and Okpokwasili rehearse <i>Scaffold Room</i>
  • April Mathis rehearses <i>Scaffold Room</i>
  • April Mathis
  • Okpokwasili is assisted by Kristen Bernier, FSU student
  • Lemon with Matt Pedersen, FSU Costume Design student
  • Okwui Okpokwasili
  • Okwui Okpokwasili
  • Okwui Okpokwasili

Collaborators in residence: Okwui Okpokwasili, April Matthis [performers], Marina Rosenfeld [composer], Katherine Profeta [dramaturg], Mike Taylor [video designer]. Slideshow photos by Chris Cameron

Living Legacy | July 30 - August 12, 2012


Ralph Lemon returned to MANCC to develop his latest project, 4Walls. The work is a multi-media installation with live performance that provides four points of view on one dance, giving new shape to the "dance with no form" that was Wall, the central section of Lemon's 2010 stage work, How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?

4Walls began as a collaboration between Lemon and videographer/editor Shoko Yamahata (FSU Alumna and MANCC filmmaker in residence 2007-2011) using months of footage from the development of Wall. Lemon's intention for Wall was to create a "dance that disappears" - an attempt, in the words of dramaturg Katherine Profeta, to "fling the body headlong into an instant of pure essence." Lemon and Yamahata created a film, in association with video editor Mike Taylor, that provides viewers a different kind of engagement in a creative process that is relentless in its questioning of the nature of what passes between performers and audiences.  

While in residence, Lemon collaborated with the original cast members of Wall, Darrell Jones (FSU School of Dance Alumnus) and Gesel Mason. Through their collaborative efforts, Lemon developed the relationship between the live performance of Jones' and Mason's solos and the projected material.  

4Walls premiered at Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) in Troy, NY, on November 15-16, 2012.

This work was commissioned by EMPAC and was also made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

  • Darrell Jones and Gesel Mason rehearse <i>Four Walls</i>
  • Mason explores movement for <i>Four Walls</i>
  • FSU Alumnus Darrell Jones rehearsing <i>Four Walls</i>
  • Jones and Mason recreate movement from video
  • <i>Four Walls</i> Residency: Darrell Jones
  • <i>Four Walls</i> Residency: Gesel Mason

Collaborators in Residence: Darrell Jones and Gesel Mason [performers]. Slideshow Photos by Chris Cameron

Living Legacy | March 29 – April 17, 2010

How Can You Stay In The House All Day And Not Go Anywhere?

In residence, Lemon and his exceptional cast focused primarily on the development of Wall/Hole, the second of three sections in the multimedia theatrical performance/installation/video How Can You Stay in the House and Not Go Anywhere? The work involved professional performers as well as residents, young and old, of Bentonia and Yazoo City, MS. Described as a “speculative fiction epic,” the project bridges the personal and the universal in an exploration of the possibilities of intercultural collaboration, the allegiances of race, and the power and unreliability of memory. This work has evolved from Lemon’s five-year collaboration with centenarian Walter Carter, a former sharecropper who has lived his entire life in Bentonia, MS.

The world premiere of How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? was held on September 10, 2010 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

  • Ralph Lemon in dialogue with his collaborators in Studio 404
  • Lemon researches movement with his collaborators
  • Dramaturg Katherine Profeta in conversation with Lemon
  • Lemon's collaborators perform for the Informal Showing
  • Lemon's collaborators perform for the Informal Showing
  • Okwui Okpokwasili in rehearsal for <i>Wall</i>
  • Ralph Lemon performs during an Informal Showing in the Black Box Theater
  • Lemon and his collaborators in dialogue after the Informal Showing of <i>Wall</i>

Collaborators in Residence: Rick Murray [Lighting Designer], Katherine Profeta, [dramaturge], Lucas Indelicato [Sound Designer], Jim Findlay [sets/projection designer], Mike Taylor [video designer], Okwui Okpokwasili, David Thomson, Gesel Mason, Djedje Djedje Gervais, Darrell Jones and Omagbitse Omagbemi [performers]. Slideshow photos by Kathryn Noletto Felis.

Featured Artist

Faye Driscoll

February 22 - 24
Carolina Performing
Arts, UNC Chapel Hill


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