In “Six Boxes,” by minimalist sculptor Donald Judd, an ensemble of mirrored cubes hide or dissimulate their own presence by reflecting the surrounding space. The effect is an apt visual metaphor for the themes of inaccessibility and self-imposed isolation explored by choreographer Michelle Kranicke (artistic director of Chicago-based Zephyr Dance) in “Just Left of Remote,” premiering at The Dance Center of Columbia College on October 25.
Of course, the resonance with Judd’s work is hardly a coincidence; “Remote” first took shape in the high desert of Marfa, West Texas, on the military base Judd re-purposed as a studio and installation space. Inspired by Judd’s work, Kranicke decided to use part of a CDF Lab Artist grant she had received to creatively seal herself there.
“My goal was to spend a long period of time alone with the work itself,” Kranicke explains. “What really struck me was how the larger, concrete sculptures were a part of the landscape but also stood apart or held back from it.” Several months later, Michelle returned with her company (and her costume designer)—making the creative process a more collaborative affair.
While developing the choreography, Kranicke—opting for an original score—began a sustained collaboration with composer Michael Caskey. “I was looking for a sound that wasn’t drum driven. That’s pretty typical in dance now, and I wanted the challenge of working without it.” Caskey responded with a rhythmic and haunting composition, using accordion, cello, harmonium and concertina—and even some recorded vocal tracks that Kranicke and her dancers laid down in Marfa.
The result of all this collaborative effort is a seventy-minute performance for four dancers (including Kranicke) that juxtaposes stretches of taut stillness with sequences involving gusty, space-covering movement—all while a projector with live video feed plays with notions of physical presence. “What we’ve tried to do is set up a game with the audience of watching and anticipating movement, however slight,” Kranicke explains.
And this final playful collaboration may be the most important. Having explored isolation in remote regions, this avant-garde company now aims to bring it home to their audience. (Debbie Goldgaber)
Zephyr Dance premieres Michelle Kranicke’s “Just Left of Remote” October 25, 26, & 27 at 8:00pm at the Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 South Michigan, (312)344-8300.