“Jumping is a little more challenging than it used to be,” says Michelle Kranicke, artistic director of Zephyr Dance and curator of the upcoming Amid Festival at Links Hall. “It’s not the going up, it’s the coming down.”
The days of big leaps and dazzling turns are ostensibly gone for the longtime dance maker and performance artist.
But though their joints may be stiffer and their range of motion a shade diminished, for Kranicke and the headliners of Amid Fest—a half-dozen active performers described as being “midcareer”—that’s no reason to stop moving, albeit at a different pace and in different ways. In conceiving the fest, Kranicke wanted to challenge conventional thinking: Once the turns and leaps start to fizzle, should a dancer’s stage career fizzle too? What about the possibilities of the older body?
“In Western culture we sort of shy away from this idea of losing physical capacity and aging because we’re in such a youth-oriented time,” she says. “It’s not bad, but the nuance and the intricacy of the movement [performed by experienced artists] is much more interesting.”
To get the point across, Kranicke handpicked a group of highly acclaimed dancers still making waves around the country, among them Merce Cunningham protege Deborah Hay, Bessie Award winner Bebe Miller, and Links Hall cofounder Bob Eisen. More came calling, including Cynthia Oliver and Pranita Jain. You may not see them on So You Think You Can Dance anytime soon, but that would be missing the point.
“It’s like life; you can’t teach a kindergartner long division right away,” Kranicke says. “They have to develop into that.” Likewise, the 75-year-old Hay, whose My Choreographed Body depends on what she is and isn’t physically capable of. “What my body can do is limited,” she says. But “how I choreograph frees me from those limitations.”
On Tuesday, January 26, at 6 PM, there’s a free panel discussion featuring Kranicke, Hay, Eisen, and Oliver on the expanding notion of virtuosity; UIC art history professor Elise Archias moderates.
Amid Fest Through 1/31: Thu-Mon 7 PM, Links Hall at Constellation, 3111 N. Western, 773-281-0824, linkshall.org, $10-$17, festival pass $25-$50.