Lionel Popkin is a choreographer/performer who consistently values bodily experience as the primary way we orient to our world. He values hybridity over homogenization and the gloriously confused over the need for oversimplification. Lionel started dancing late. Boys in Indiana in the 80s were sent to tennis lessons. Their sisters took ballet. Lionel took his first practice class, his first composition class, his first improvisation class and his first theory class all in the same year. They spoke back and forth. Cultural theory and alignment are intimate neighbors. For a while he improvised a lot. In Seattle Lionel danced with Stephanie Skura and did a few projects with Karen Nelson. Contact and Skinner Releasing Technique were his mainstays. Imagery fueled him. Being unsure of what forms might show up in rehearsal kept him going back into the room. He spun in circles for a few hours every once in awhile. In 1996 he moved east and started dancing for Terry Creach in an all-male company. Lionel used his proprioceptive reflexes more than he thought was possible. He also started teaching a lot - at Bates College, Sarah Lawrence College, and Temple University to name a few.
In 2000, he got into the Trisha Brown Company. His technique improved. He learned how to calibrate his performance energy for big rooms. He studied Klein/Mahler technique whenever he could. He learned repertory. He spent more time in opera rehearsals than he expected to. September 11th happened. When the airports opened up again Trisha insisted on walking through the terminal arm in arm with him. She understood bodies. She knew an old white lady could help a brown guy get through security.
During the decade from 2004-2013 Lionel made works that dealt with cross-cultural conversation between his post-modern training and the imagery and iconography of the Indian subcontinent that surrounded his youth. At one point he wore an elephant head, at another he put on his mother’s saris. He likes to think he looked good in both. Early in that adventure he went olfactory and cooked a curry on-stage. He had some kick ass collaborators (Bob Een, Carolyn Hall, Ishmael Houston Jones, Guy Klucevsek, and Peggy Piacenza to name a few) and was presented in a lot of amazing spaces (including Danspace Project, Abrons Arts Center and Dance Theater Workshop in New York City, The Getty Museum, the Skirball Cultural Center and REDCAT in Los Angeles, the Jacob's Pillow Inside/Out Series, The Painted Bride and Philadelphia Dance Projects in Philadelphia, ODC in San Francisco, The Place Theater in London, and the Guongdong Modern Dance Festival in Guongzhou, China). He even danced so much that he had to replace his shirt halfway through a tour. Since 2006 Lionel has taught at UCLA. Teaching allows for a continual questioning of any and all assumptions he has about performance. The students keep him on his toes.
Lionel has also received grants from multiple sources including the National Performance Network's Creation Fund, the National Dance Project Touring Subsidy, the Center for Cultural Innovation, the Puffin Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Durfee Foundation. He is planning on this list getting longer in the near future. His recent work has focused on the more intimate familial world, questioning conceptions of home from the point of view of the itinerant, the domesticated and the diasporic.