Zephyr’s “Valise 13” at Defibrillator Gallery Review – Abstract Movement Poetry

Zephyr Transforms Physical Space

It’s telling that loud warnings to turn off your cellphone were absent at Defibrillator Gallery, yet none were heard.

Entering the gallery space was not unlike going to a Jain temple in some remote corner of India. The physical environment created in the gallery space was all encompassing, and seemed to pop out of nowhere. In it’s bare bones, Defibrillator Gallery is a modest space—so modest in fact that this reviewer walked past it twice before finding it on the third try.

In its window we saw black crepe paper and reflective banners. In the largest part of the gallery an angled coliseum type structure, similarly adorned with black crepe paper, suggested it was where the main action would be. Actually, this imposing structure turned out to be more of a drive by space for the two dancers and audience gaggle trailing them. Beyond, in the garage, and below, in the basement, were two additional performance spaces decorated with variants of the same raw materials—black crepe paper and supersized aluminum foil-like reflective banners. Defining the inner spaces within these spaces—and giving the audience perches here and there- were cinder blocks piled one, two or three high.

Zephyr's Performance Begins

At some point sound came on and the crowd that had been milling about the gallery hushed. The two Zephyr dancers were in different spaces.

Michelle Kranicke—Zephyr founder, artistic director, choreographer was one performer; Molly Strom was the other.

In the storefront space window, Molly Strom appeared in a white muslin costume full of flaps that at times obscured her face and the ability to see where limb began and ended, as she assumed pretzel contortionist poses, adjusted slowly and then with quick starts. This was an extremely strong opening, channeling our attention to minimalist movement expressions that were the hallmark of the performance.

From there transitions were made to lure us to the basement, where the two dancers changed our focus with rhythmic interweaving of chest beating with ritual-like gesticulations, a few even venturing from this abstract landscape into recognizable see-no-evil, speak-no-evil, hear-no-evil signing.  

Abstract Movement Poetry

That brief moment is an aberration. Reading about this work on Zephyr’s website we learn that keeping you focused on movement abstraction is more what choreographer Michelle Kranicke has in mind. It says, “Valise 13 is a succession of separate forays, trajectories, linkages and fleeting formations that chart our inability to tie one moment to another moment, to follow a trail, to dissemble a whole, to adhere to a line of visual argument or adequately involve ourselves in a disparate, continuous unfolding of sound, texture, image and movement. Dancers Michelle Kranicke and Molly Strom migrate along individual pathways, interacting with transformative materials that allow shifts in physicalities and personas. A shimmering enclosure of impermanent materiality, conceived and constructed by David Sundry, occupies the center of the space, opening the edges around it and encouraging the action to settle in the leftover areas of the gallery. The work’s fractured oblique structure echoes how sense objects inhabit the world. Audience members are challenged to account for the unseen parts and spaces between the fragments, and the movers themselves, as they make decisions about who to follow (or not to follow) and which path to take throughout the evening. The independent trajectories of the movers and audience intertwine and entangle in edges of light, darkness and enclosure.”

Thus, we are in an abstract world of Zephyr’s creation.   That said, it’s probably not only this reviewer’s wee noodle that felt the edges of a narrative imposing order on the experience. Not unlike the waking person’s need to put story line on the quasi-random visuals that are the stuff of dreams, you too may find yourself seeing a narrative thread in the moving Rorschach patterning.   With the sound of an imagined boat motor, the dancers sometimes assuming poses like improbably legged storks, sometimes wing flapping, and cycling from layering to molting, with rhythm spots that seemed to whisper there were the fractals of life in our midst, and sounds of yips, barks or something else feral—this reviewer felt transported to a manmade wetlands abstraction— or perhaps better put—an abstraction of an abstraction of such.

It’s not that you may see it differently—you WILL.

This choreography doesn’t come to you. Rather, you come to it.

Don’t expect to be energized by the performance, as dance often does. Do expect to be taken over by it, not dissimilarly to how a poem seeps through your pores to your most inner.


Photos:  Courtesy of Zephyr.


Choreographer/Dancer Michelle Kranicke in another Zephyr work

Choreographer/Dancer Michelle Kranicke in another Zephyr work. Photo: Cheryl Mann



October 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. 



Defibrillator Gallery

1463 W. Chicago Ave. 



$11,  available at zephyrdance.com.


Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.


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