Swiss Grand Award for Dance 2017
Noemi Lapzeson was born in 1940 in Buenos Aires, where she took her first dance steps in Dalcroze eurhythmics while still a child. She has lived and worked in Geneva since 1980. At the age of 16 she went to New York on a scholarship to the Julliard School, where her teachers included Alfredo Corvino, José Limón, Antony Tudor and Louis Horst. She then danced as a soloist with Martha Graham, for example in “Appalachian Spring” (1967). In 1969, together with Robert Cohen, she helped to set up the London Contemporary Dance Theatre and its school (The Place), teaching there and in other countries and becoming one of the pioneers of contemporary dance in Switzerland. In 1986, together with Philippe Albera and Jean-François Rohrbasser, she founded the Association pour la danse contemporaine (ADC) in Geneva, winner of the Special Award at the Swiss Dance Awards 2015 and, in 1989, set up her own company, Vertical Danse. 2002 saw Noemi Lapzeson win the first Swiss Dance and Choreography Prize from the Corymbo Foundation, a privately funded national award that was a predecessor of today’s Swiss Dance Awards. She received a Prix Romand in 1992 and a Fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation in New York in 1999. Marcela San Pedro, a long-serving pupil and dancer of Noemi Lapzeson, published a book in 2014 entitled “Un corps qui pense – Noemi Lapzeson, transmettre en danse contemporaine”, a dialogue with Lapzeson that sheds light on her story and teaching activities and also includes a full directory of her works.
During her first years in Geneva, Noemi Lapzeson tutored the Ballet du Grand Théâtre and taught at the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze and the school of Beatriz Consuelo, who founded the Ballet Junior and is the mother of the well-known dancer and choreographer Foofwa d’Imobilité. Lapzeson’s first choreographies, which she presented at the Salle Patiño in Geneva, were solos, including “There is another shore, you know” (1981), a dialogue with the flautist Igor Francesco. The work was revived in 1994 as “Trace” and subsequently performed by various artists including Marcela San Pedro and Pascal Auberson. “Le chemin où tu marches se retire” (1993) was turned into a highly regarded short film by Pascal Magnin entitled “Pas perdu”. The performance “Lussa” (1986), in which she appears alongside the actor and dancer Armand Deladoëy, has been presented at the first Bern Dance Festival at the Kunsthalle Bern in 1987, the Kulturkaserne Basel and elsewhere. Vertical Danse was the first independent group supported by the City of Geneva. From 1987 to 2014 Noemi Lapzeson taught her own form of dance pedagogy, developed from the Graham technique and yoga, at the Studio Grütli. In 2015 she presented “Variations Goldberg” at the ADC’s Salle des Eaux-Vives; dancers included Marthe Krummenacher, a member of Vertical Danse who is the winner of this year’s Outstanding Female Dancer award.
Alexandre Demidoff, jury member
“A world in female form, Noemi Lapzeson is a thousand currents combined. Her uniqueness is born of physical intelligence, a marriage of intellect and sensuality, a captivating theatricality. Her presence in Geneva since 1980 has encouraged many to follow in her footsteps. Through her productions – often innovative, always personal – and her passion for communication, this pioneering artist will influence generations to come.
The former Martha Graham star is an inspiration; but even more than that, she brings people together. When Association pour la danse contemporaine (ADC) is launched in 1986, she is in the thick of the action. Constantly searching for new forms, she is a choreographer who does not theorise. She makes her demands with unfailing kindness. Dance, she often says, is a thought. It is about inventing freedom.”