Ralph Lemon

Ralph Lemon is Artistic Director of Cross Performance, a company dedicated to the creation of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary performance and presentation. Lemon builds teams of collaborating artists - from diverse cultural backgrounds, countries and artistic disciplines - who bring their own history and aesthetic voices to the work. Projects develop over a period of years, with public sharings of work-in-progress, culminating in artworks derived from the artistic, cultural, historic and emotional material uncovered in this rigorous creative research process.

Lemon's most recent work, How Can You Stay In The House All Day And Not Go Anywhere? (2008-2010) was a four-part project consisting of live performance, film, and visual art. The first three parts were presented on stage with a cast of seven and the fourth, Meditation (created with video designer Jim Findlay), was an immersive visual art installation.

The project also included a mixed-media exhibition of works created by Lemon and his long-time collaborator/muse, Walter Carter, a black man from Mississippi whose life spanned the 20th Century. This critically acclaimed work toured to seven cities across the U.S. including Urbana, IL; San Francisco, CA; Minneapolis, MN; Los Angeles, CA; Seattle, WA; Durham, NC; and Brooklyn, NY. In January 2011, a re-contextualized version of one section of the work was presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in conjunction with the exhibition, On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century.

Other recent projects include Some sweet day, a performance series curated by Lemon in 2012 at the Museum of Modern Art, NY; Paradance, a series of performed lectures, which Lemon presented at universities and art centers throughout 2011; an online installation (www.ralphlemon.net); and Rescuing the Princess, a 2009 performance commission for the Lyon Opera Ballet. In 2010, Lemon curated I Get Lost, a performance and humanities series for Danspace Project, New York, NY. In 2005 Lemon concluded The Geography Trilogy - a ten-year project encompassing three full-evening dance/theater works - Geography (1997), Tree (2000), and Come home Charley Patton (2004); two online art projects; three books - geography: art/race/exile, Tree: Belief/Culture/Balance and Come home Charley Patton; several gallery installations featuring video, drawings and photographs; and a three-DVD set with an essay written by project dramaturg, Katherine Profeta.

Lemon's solo visual art exhibitions include: 1856 Cessna Road, Studio Museum in Harlem (2012); How Can You Stay In The House All Day And Not Go Anywhere?, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA (2010); (the efflorescence of) Walter, Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans (2008), The Kitchen, New York (2007) and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2006); The Geography Trilogy, Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT (2001); Temples, Margaret Bodell Gallery, New York (2000); and Geography, Art Awareness, Lexington, New York (1997). Group exhibitions include: Move: Choreographing You, Hayward Gallery, London, UK (2010-11) and The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl, Nasher Museum at Duke University, Durham, NC.

Lemon is an inaugural recipient of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Artist Award (2012) and was also one of fifty artists to receive the inaugural United States Artists Fellowship in 2006. He has received two "Bessie" (NY Dance and Performance) Awards, 2009 and 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2004 Fellowship with the Bellagio Study and Conference Center. In 1999, Lemon was honored with the CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts.

Lemon has been artist-in-residence at Temple University in Philadelphia (2005-06); George A. Miller Endowment Visiting Artist at the Krannert Center (2004); and a Fellow of the Humanities Council and Program in Theater and Dance at Princeton University (2002). From 1996-2000, he was Associate Artist at Yale Repertory Theatre. In 2009, he was an IDA fellow at Stanford University and in 2011 he was a Visiting Critic with the Yale University, School of Art, Sculpture Department. He is the 2013 Annenberg Fellow at the Museum of Modern Art.

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 will premiere 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.

World Premiere

Emily Johnson

Then a Cunning Voice
August 19
PS122 (NYC)


Click to close x