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Modern dance isn’t known for its aerial feats. By contrast, ballet dancers fly through the air with the greatest of ease, tap dancers boast fancy footwork and amazing aerobic stamina—even the Rockettes, often criticized for their lack of training and skill, are able to throw their legs up higher than the average starting forward’s head. Modern dancers are masters of contortion and expression, but often they’re content to keep both feet firmly planted on the ground. College of William and Mary professors Denise Damon Wade and Joan Gavaler challenge conventional thinking about the medium with their aptly named dance company, Gravity Optional. The 10-person dance troupe, out of the Williamsburg and Hampton Roads areas, executes jumps and leaps as if aided by wire—the result is more awe-inspiring circus performance than typical modern-dance show. But flight isn’t the only thing that sets the group apart from its peers: The aim of the two artistic directors is to “inspire a range of emotional responses” in their audience members, and they deliver. Damon Wade’s Wordplay allows the dancers to exhibit their gravity-defying skill as they hop around the stage with various words projected in the background, and Gavaler’s more serious Barrier deals with the challenges of caring for the mentally and physically handicapped. Watch the dancers get fly at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 27, and at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 28, at Dance Place, 3225 8th St. NE. $16. (202) 269-1600. (Sarah Godfrey)