After 20 years, can "Out There" still be out there? The Walker Art Center's festival of provocative performance has become a January institution in the Twin Cities, even as it continues to stretch the boundaries of dance, theater and music. It has been two decades since former performing-arts curator John Killacky invited a few local artists to shuffle some work into a cabaret that would fill the Southern Theater.

Philip Bither, who has taken the helm from Killacky, said that the best way to honor the spirit of "Out There" is to bring the most exciting makers of performance and theater in the country. The thread running through this year's festival, now held at the Walker's new theater, is the blurring of lines between audience and artist, dance and theater, music, text and performance. Performers will hold workshops at 11 a.m. each Saturday of the festival for those looking for hands-on participation.

"Out There" began Wednesday and continues for four weekends. Here's the lineup:

Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People: "Everyone"

Gutierrez breaks the rules in "Everyone" by putting the audience on the stage, with an intimate arrangement of only 80 seats. Gutierrez is a New York choreographer whose work seems driven by his angst over whether he's connecting. Dancers wander the stage, hooking stares with the audience, before launching into aggressively physical dance that attempts to build a community. "They approach every task with gut-busting fervor, be it galumphing around shrieking with laughter or speaking in meticulous unison," wrote Deborah Jowitt in the Village Voice.

The Team: "Particularly in the Heartland"

The "Theater for the Emerging American Moment" owes much to the experimental leanings of Ann Bogart, the Wooster Group and Elevator Repair Service. Yet the TEAM approaches its subject matter without irony or cynicism, using a strongly kinetic vocabulary to tell a loose story about Kansas farm children left alone when their parents are either detained at Wal-Mart or taken up in the Rapture. "They're really finding the positive values, and the goodness in this family," said Bither. The New York Times said the work avoids "screechy didacticism" and promotes "the belief that everyone can get along and see past the walls of their own ideology." (8 p.m. Jan. 17-19.)

Claude Wampler: "Performance (Career Ender)"

Wampler, who was the visual collaborator for Sarah Michelson's 2005 Walker performance piece "Daylight,"relies on the element of surprise in her work, which is part rock show, part visual installation, smoke and mirrors. To give a broad sense of what she's up to in this latest work, Wampler plays with virtual and real performance within the context of a band preparing for a concert. The house will be limited -- to 100 seats -- which necessitates a few more shows. (8 p.m. Jan. 24, 7 & 9:30 p.m. Jan. 25-26.)

David Neumann / Advanced Beginner Group: "Feedforward"

Neumann reimagines sporting events as performance. In a recent YouTube posting, he said, "Sports in a weird way is just a convenient framework to make this dance in this aesthetic." The show features live music by composer Eve Beglarian, using a trombone choir. The Walker commissioned the piece -- a mix of physical theater, dance and text that Bither calls a poetic elegy on watching sports. Neumann has said, "I'm not a big sports person but I do find beauty in it." (8 p.m Jan. 31-Feb. 2.)