Have you ever been lucky enough to see a Cirque du Soleil performance, its dancers performing elaborate choreography while suspended from a strip of fabric in midair? Did you have any idea that a dance company is doing similarly stunning work right here in Oklahoma City?
Perpetual Motion Dance is Michelle Moeller’s creation. She is a professor of dance at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) in Edmond, yet she somehow finds the time to also run an independent dance studio responsible for some of the most cutting-edge performances in the state.
Moeller started the company in 2002 with a group of UCO dance graduates. Since that time, it has grown. It offers open auditions each year, and the company tours extensively, especially over the past three years. Now, the dancers of Perpetual Motion are putting the finishing touches on their latest production, Kinetic.
“We take traditional techniques — ballet and modern — and apply that to aerial work,” Moeller said.
This is in contrast to the more traditional style of aerial work that you see at, well, a circus. Perpetual Motion constantly strives to be on the cutting edge of dance, especially with aerial work.
“I try to keep in touch with what’s going on in the art world and what’s contemporary,” Moeller said. “I feel like we really contribute to the voice of OKC.”
Those who have seen the company perform are in for something different from last year’s Water Won’t Wait. In contrast to the fluid, dreamy performances of Water, Kinetic is all about energy and resistance.
“We took images and gestures that mostly have to do with the push and pull of your life,” Moeller said.
The productions are often the product of conversations about everyday things, according to Moeller, who said she never knows what can spark inspiration. There is one piece in the new show called “Look Right, Look Left,” inspired by a recent trip to London, where it says that exact phrase on the sidewalk.
“I loved the idea of making yourself stop and take a look before you take a step,” Moeller said.
She works with the company to turn that inspiration into something concrete and relatable. She also strives to get her point across as clearly as she can. Dance can be too abstract for some people, and she admits that. But she also urges those who might be skeptical to give it another chance.
“Dance gets kind of a bad rap, but we try to have a strong visual metaphor,” she said. “I feel like it’s our responsibility in the Midwest to push ourselves to be doing something new for ourselves and our audience.”