Michelle Kranicke (choreographer/performer/artistic director) is the founder and artistic director of Zephyr. For the past 25 years she has been choreographing and presenting her work in concerts, informal open rehearsals, lecture-demonstrations and workshops. She has taught dance and movement to children of all ages, professional dancers, and senior citizens, and specializes in bringing experiences in dance and the creative process to the uninitiated and those unfamiliar or intimidated by the art form. In 2010 she began to shift her aesthetic perspective and creative process, reexamining how dance should be presented, who determines what movement is considered dance, and who lays claim to the role of performer. That shift has inspired her to create work that coerces dance outside of its known environment, searching for choreography where public definition claims it does not exist and encouraging a closer look at dance by challenging current classifications and valuations of the form.
Michelle was recently awarded an artist residency at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, NY. Scheduled to take place in January and February 2017, Michelle will immerse herself in solo choreographic research, beginning the creation and development of the movement personas for SITE/less. During summer 2016 Michelle received an 8-week Research and Development Residency from Defibrillator Gallery to develop Valise 13, a collaboration with architect David Sundry to understand and re-present space through the collision of the specific creative processes of choreography and architecture. In 2015 she was awarded an Artistic Associate/Curatorial Residency at Links Hall in Chicago. During that time she conceived, curated, and co-presented The aMID Festival, a 9-day festival celebrating the underserved performative body of the experienced artist and challenging commonly held views regarding the age of a dancer. aMID showcased venerable dance artists Deborah Hay, Bebe Miller and Bob Eisen, in addition to contemporaries, Pranita Jain, Cynthia Oliver, Smith/Wymore Disappearing Acts, and Zephyr. aMID was the first dance festival in the United States highlighting the versatility, creativity, and expansive thinking that comes with a choreographic and performing career of 25 years or more. In addition to curating the Festival, Michelle choreographed and presented two new works, Study #1—The Body in Relation to Object and Study #2—Not the Madison Dance, But a Love Letter Just the Same. From 2012-2014, with an artist team comprised of an architect, video artist, textile artist, composer, lighting designer and dancers, Michelle premiered 3 works in 3 consecutive years: The Balance In Between, an 80 minute immersive dance piece presented at Defibrillator Gallery in Chicago that was named one of the one of the 7 best dance events of the year by Lauren Warnecke writing for The Windy City Times.; Out and Back in Again, a 2-hour durational dance work set to original live music and presented under a catenary of fabric; and Allowances and Occurrences, a 3-hour durational dance work that invited one to consider the movement of both performer and viewer as dance. In 2010 Michelle created The Trace of Her is Barely Visible, the first piece in her efforts to expand the definition of dance by surrounding the viewer with movement in order to create a visceral response beyond the prescribed visual experience. In 2006 Michelle received a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award to underwrite the research and development of Just Left of Remote, which premiered at the Dance Center of Columbia College, Chicago, and toured to Marfa, Texas and New York. In January 2005 Michelle presented three benchmark concerts in New York City. Her work earned significant critical praise from national dance critic Jennifer Dunning of the New York Times who wrote “… you couldn’t look away. What happened onstage, throughout the evening, was too authentic-looking and authoritative.” Michelle’s work has been presented by: Defibrillator Gallery, Chicago; The Dance Center of Columbia College, Chicago; The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Chicago; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Triskelion Arts, Brooklyn, NY; Mulberry Street Theatre and Cunningham Dance Studio, New York, NY; Niagara County Community College, Wheatfield, NY; The Marfa Theatre, Marfa, TX; 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; Stimke Theatre, Milwaukee, WI; Cleveland Public Theatre, Cleveland, OH; Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware; OH, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH; Patrick’s Cabaret, Minneapolis, MN; Epic Center, Kalamazoo, MI; Knickerbocker Theatre, Holland, MI; and more. In 1997 Michelle created, and Zephyr produced annually from 1997-2004, Dancing Across State Lines (DASL) a regional touring initiative designed to introduce Chicago audiences to exceptional contemporary dance by smaller neighboring dance companies through shared concert performances while boosting touring opportunities for Zephyr and guest companies. .
Michelle has received numerous commissions for her choreography. In August 2016 Defibrillator Gallery commissioned Michelle to choreograph a sculptural, site-specific work for Word_Movement_Action, a performance juxtaposing the conceptual creative processes of movement based artist, Michelle Kranicke, texted based artist, Ieke Trinks, and image based artist Carlos Salazar Lermont. In April 2013 Michelle choreographed 40 minutes from november, a commission by the City of Chicago for the Pritzker Pavilion stage in Millennium Park. In October 2011 Michelle was commissioned by Joseph Ravens curator of the ALIVE Performance Series at Defibrillator Gallery to create a 3-hour durational dance performance to be presented alongside Korean performance artist Gim Gwang Cheol. In 2011, 2006, 2003 and 2000 Michelle was invited as the guest artist to teach and choreograph for Illinois Wesleyan University’s student repertory dance company. From 1996-2000 Michelle was commissioned by Chicago’s Next Dance Festival (CNDF) to create and perform in new works for the Festival. CNDF was an artist-curated, artist-produced festival whose mission was to commission and present groundbreaking contemporary choreography. In March 2000 Michelle created original choreography for the Albany Park Theatre Project, a teen theatre group devising original plays from real life stories. In 1999 she was commissioned to create work for Links Hall’s Equal Footing/Earring series set to original music by Chicago composer Charles Kim. Also in 1999, the McLean County Dance Association invited Michelle to set a dance work on 25 community members ranging in age from 8-78.
Michelle is a published author. Her article, Are They Getting It?: Creating Dance Assessments That Honor the Creative Process, co-authored with Education Consultant Lara Pruitt, was published in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of Dance Education. She is an expert teaching artist using dance to teach the core curriculum in the Chicago Public School system, and trains teaching artists and educators nationally and internationally. From June 2012-September 2014, she was a consultant coach for Columbia College’s Center for Community Arts Partnerships’ Project CREATES, a professional development project to enhance teacher understanding of arts integration funded by the U.S. Department of Education. In 2010 Michelle designed and taught How Do You Know If They Get It?: Creating Assessments for Dance at the Dance Center of Columbia College, a three-week workshop to help students and professional teaching artists develop authentic assessments for dance in the classroom. In 2010 and 2011 Michelle was hired by the Illinois Arts Council to teach and facilitate four Arts Integrated Assessment 101 training workshops and a follow-up Arts Integrated Assessment 102 training workshop for teachers, arts educators and artists across the state of Illinois. In 2008 she was awarded a grant from the Illinois Arts Council to design, teach and facilitate Powerful Connections, a statewide 2-day workshop based on Zephyr’s model of arts integrated education for teaching artists and arts educators across the state of Illinois. In 2008 and 2007 Michelle created and led 4-day professional development workshops in arts integrated teaching techniques for students, alums and professional teaching artists at the Dance Center of Columbia College. In 2005 she was invited by the Scottish Arts Council to travel to Edinburgh to teach methodologies of using movement to enhance the understanding of mathematics at the professional development retreat for Arts Across the Curriculum, a three year collaborative project engaging teachers and artists. In 2004 and 2003 Michelle was a Professional Development Specialist/Coach training dance artists and dance educators in methods of arts integrated education for the Tanglewood Project, a cultural partnership at Tanglewood Middle School in Greenville, South Carolina. Her philosophies on using movement in the classroom to enhance student understanding of academics have been cited in two books about the arts integration, 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. Michelle 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.