Out and Back In Again
Out and Back In Again Credit: Rosa Gaia Saunders

As it gains wider popularity with the success of high-powered television shows like Dancing With the Stars, the prevailing definition of what dance is seems to be changing. Those contracting boundaries are the stakes in Michelle Kranicke‘s experimental Out and Back In Again, coproduced by Zephyr Dance and Defibrillator.

Riveting stretches of virtual stillness and meticulous repeated gestures dominate many routines. For the better part of two hours, three dancers pool at the edges of an installation designed for this piece by architect David Sundry to be claustrophobic, like a womb or bad weather. With fingertips or flattened palms, they touch a wall, as if listening for what’s on the other side.

The fourth wall dissolves as dancers shimmy and creep into corners occupied by the audience. No longer omniscient, each viewer is bewitched into perpetual distraction, encouraged to drift about the room, get comfortable, look around. Enormous video projections show body parts stripped of contextual clues and distorted to make familiar movements unrecognizable. In one section of breathtaking excess, dancers work themselves into a proper lather, catching and releasing air; the music that their staggered breathing makes runs from mildly disturbing to pornographic and back to disturbing again. Not recognizable as dance, perhaps, but an evocative simulation of the challenges of a professional dance career.