Today on 10 Questions With… we feature a Chicago-area dance professional, Michelle Kranicke…
My mother was an enormous ballet fan, and as a child she took me to see many performances. Although it wasn’t love at first sight, it took me awhile to develop a love for dance. I actually did not begin taking ballet class until I was 13. But once I fell, I fell hard. I grew up in Chicago and there were always ballet companies touring and performing in the city, so I was fortunate to see many of the classics.
2. What has your dance career been like?
It has definitely a lot of work, but it has also been extremely rewarding. It’s a gift to be able to grapple with aesthetic ideas all day. I have had the privilege of working with so many talented dancers. For some dancemakers the performance is the best part, but for me I love the rehearsal process. I love watching ideas unfold and then really honing and developing those ideas.
3. What are you doing currently in the field?
I am actually stepping back and taking a good hard look at my dancemaking process. I am going back to the fundamentals of my own creative process and trying to take those fundamentals apart. I am really looking to extend the art form, to push against the boundaries of dance and extend ideas about movement as far as possible. I am using proximity and stillness, and trying to move dance from a predominantly visual experience for the viewer into an aural or kinesthetic experience as well.
4. If you had to describe Zephyr Dance to someone, what would you say?
Zephyr Dance is a movement based ensemble creating landscapes and atmospheres that challenge the audience to see dance from a new perspective. A Zephyr dance builds from an idea that resonates on many levels—-physical, emotional and intellectual. Within a dance piece one will see intricate, distinct gestures, strong lines and tight groupings and formations set against seamless meditative movement that opens out to engulf space, then reforms elsewhere.
5. What do you love about working in dance?
I love the challenge. The challenge of going back into the studio after a premiere or a tour and trying to work to discover something new. I am constantly moved to investigate what the body and movement can reveal, and how putting those investigations and ideas together creates a whole that is more than the sum of the parts.
6. What do you find challenging about working in dance?
The most challenging part of working in dance, apart from the economic reality, is advocacy. People are often apprehensive about attending dance concerts because there is the notion that they have to understand what the choreographer was trying to communicate with the movement. I often compare dance to music, telling people that just as you do not go hear a classical music concert or a jazz concert and try to understand the reasoning behind each note, the same theory applies to dance. The audience brings its own experience, and in an audience of 200 there can, and usually are, 200 different ideas of what a dance is about. And that’s as it should be. I don’t know any of my colleagues that feels the audience is obliged to understand what the impetus of a work was.
7. Can you describe a special moment from your life in dance?
One of my proudest moments was the excellent review Zephyr Dance received in 2005 in the New York Times. That particular New York tour was one of our most challenging, but waking up and reading the review in the paper was incredible. But aside from public accolades, I am truly grateful for Zephyr company members. I work with an incredible group of open-minded, intelligent, adventurous women. The fact that they are ready and willing each rehearsal to dive into a new exploration is really very special.
8. Where do you think dance is headed?
I think this is a very exciting time for dance. There are a lot of dancemakers working and discovering new territories in movement. There is a lot of energy and excitement in the field right now. Technology has allowed a whole new audience to discover the art form. And dancemakers are using technology more and more to find alternate perspectives to a traditional theatrical experience.
9. What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in dance?
You need to absolutely LOVE it. A career is dance is an incredible amount of work and you need to find the gratification in yourself and your passion for the art form, and not in the applause of the audience. Especially because for most of us we spend more time in class and rehearsal than we will ever spend on stage performing. And the audience can be fickle, what is embraced one day is often thrown aside the next in pursuit of the newest trend.
10. What’s next for you?
Zephyr Dance will be performing its fall concert, SMEARED SURFACES, November 17 & 18 at 7:30PM and November 19 at 2:00 PM at Holstein Park, 2200 N. Oakley in Chicago. Tickets and information can be found at www.zephyrdance.com or by calling 773-489-5069.
BIO: Michelle Kranicke is the founder and artistic director of Chicago’s Zephyr Dance. Over the years she has choreographed more than 25 works for Zephyr’s repertoire and has been nominated three times for a Dance Achievement Award from the Chicago Dance and Music Alliance. In January 2006 Michelle was awarded a Lab Artist grant from the Chicago Dancemakers Forum to underwrite the research and development of Just Left of Remote. Her work has been presented by the Dance Center of Columbia College, Chicago; Mulberry Street Theatre, New York; Cunningham Dance Studio, New York; The Art & Culture Center of Hollywood, Hollywood, FL; North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND; Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, AR; Margaret H’Doubler Theatre, Madison, WI; and more. Michelle has been commissioned three times to create work for Illinois Wesleyan University’s student repertory dance company. From 1996-2000 she was commissioned to create and perform new works annually for Chicago’s Next Dance Festival (an artist-curated and produced festival known for commissioning and presenting ground-breaking contemporary dance). In 1995 Michelle created, and Zephyr produces, Dancing Across State Lines, a regional touring initiative designed to introduce Chicago audiences to exceptional contemporary dance by smaller neighboring dance companies while boosting touring opportunities for Zephyr and guest companies.
Since 1996 Michelle has been involved in cutting edge education work using dance to teach the core curriculum in the Chicago Public School system and is valued for her expertise in curriculum development, working with artists and educators nationally and internationally. In April 2005 Michelle was invited by the Scottish Arts Council to teach the dance workshops at the professional development retreat for Arts Across the Curriculum, a three year research project based on collaborative planning and teaching by teachers and artists. In 1997 she helped pioneer the first arts integrated education residency at the college level for Illinois Wesleyan University’s May Term, giving students a physical experience of their course curriculum. Her work has been cited in two books written about the arts in the classroom, Renaissance in the Classroom: Arts Integration and Meaningful Learning, G.Burnaford et al., and LEAPing Toward Change: A Portrait of Teacher-Artist Collaborative Instructional Practice in the Elementary Classroom, Kelly Stokes, Dissertation, Temple University. She created Zephyr’s Dance is for EveryBODY project, a comprehensive community outreach program based at Holstein Park under the auspices of the Chicago Park District’s Arts Partners in Residence Program. She has been a guest artist at Illinois Wesleyan University, Eastern Illinois University, and Ohio Wesleyan University, and taught residencies and master classes in modern dance in Chicago and throughout the United States. Michelle currently teaches Dance Appreciation during Illinois Wesleyan University’s May Term program.