Blindness was the spur for Frozen Straight On, Zephyr artistic director Michelle Kranicke's new sextet. Hoping to explore both physical and emotional handicaps, she often blindfolded her dancers as they worked on the piece--and the result embodies both strength and vulnerability. The opening is full of wild, thoughtless-looking but well-organized movement, phrases that include turning jumps and stag leaps. The second section also begins with a clear phrase repeated across the stage, but this one is smaller and safer, part of it a simple box step. Sometimes rolling takes the place of more common forms of locomotion, and in a dramatic image of self-protection, elbows are pulled into sides, hands curled. Violent fluctuations in the lighting help dramatize the loss of a sensory ability--which may be offset by the acquisition of other abilities. Among the pieces in the sound design is Lou Harrison's exquisite concerto for violin and gamelan. Also on the program is associate artistic director Emily Stein's new Field/Root/Ground, inspired by Willa Cather's My Antonia and a six-part Frontline series called "The Farmer's Wife." Moved by the hard work and dedication of people who farm their own land, Stein settled on the potato (actually, 20 pounds of potatoes) as the piece's central prop. Though the dance is serious at times--a few sections contrast some dancers' quick movement across the stage with the slow progress of others who nudge each other along--the potato's intrinsic humor cannot be denied, and the piece ends in playful interactions with that humble vegetable. Rounding out the program is Kranicke's Tissue Thin. Free preview Wednesday at 12:15 in the auditorium of the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State; call 312-747-4850 for information. Regular performances are next Friday and Saturday, June 2 and 3, at 8 in the same place; $12-$18. Call 773-989-8225 for tickets and information. --Laura Molzahn
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Erica Dufour.