Zephyr Dance artistic director Michelle Kranicke | Interview
Michelle Kranicke unravels a scroll of blueprints and shows me the stage layout for her latest work Allowances and Occurrences, opening Friday 14 at the DEFIBRILLATOR gallery. The print reveals the choreographer’s attention to detail. So do the dancers. They move carefully, methodically, and sometimes, not at all. Stillness acts as technique for engaging the audience—a challenging task, indeed. Later, when we connect by phone, the Zephyr Dance artistic director talks about her evolving creative process and what she hopes to (not) know moving forward. Here are some excerpts.
What were your thoughts when developing Allowances and Occurrences?
I had been confronting myself in the studio for the past year or so and finding that my process was becoming less satisfying. I had done a workshop last summer in Maine, studying this idea of slow tempo. It aligned with my own questioning of 'where are the boundaries of dance, where are the edges?'
There’s a lot happening right now in pop culture that seems to be solidifying a particular view of what dance is. If you watch So You Think You Can Dance, there’s the contemporary category and the modern category, and this category and that category. Things are becoming regimented and defined. I think society—especially Western culture—we’re always looking to define what something is. It’s this discomfort that comes with being confronted with something that’s abstract that forces the viewer to look and place meaning on something that may not have an overt or clear idea. When it comes to art, adults want to know what things are. They don’t trust their own intuitions and they don’t trust their own instincts.
Do you have a sense of why people don't trust their instincts?
A lot of it has to do with a lack of art education, particularly in the United States. Our entire education system is built around knowing the right answer. Philosophically grappling with a question and being comfortable with knowing that you won’t come up with an answer, I think, is foreign to a lot of people.
If you look at the political campaign right now, everybody is telling you what they’re going to do and how it’s going to fix the economy, when really, nobody knows. To admit that is often looked upon as an admission of failure or a lack of knowledge. People are not willing to embrace that, whereas practicing artists—dancers, painters, visual artists, musicians—we all live in that world. People who constantly see art, we’re trying to live in that world of not knowing. It’s not a common place of existence.
Does the idea of "not knowing" go back to what you were saying earlier about wanting to re-examine your process?
I would hope [re-examining] would be natural for most artists, but it does go back to that. I felt like I had mined a lot of the parameters I had set up for myself. The hardest question and the biggest question was, ‘well if I’ve mined all these corners and parameters, what are the new parameters and where do I find those?' That was, and still is, a really challenging place to be.
Allowances and Occurrences runs September 14–16, and September 21–23 at the DEFIBRILLATOR gallery. Read more about Allowances and Occurrences here. For tickets and info go to zephyrdance.com/calendar.