Heidi Latsky Dance
by Carmel Morgan
July 22, 2009 -- The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Millennium Stage, Washington, DC
In conjunction with the National Forum on Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities, the Kennedy Center, in partnership with the NEA and VSAarts, presented an Alliger Arts and Heidi Latsky Dance production, “GIMP.” The hour-long performance consisted of excerpts from “GIMP,” choreographed and directed by Heidi Latsky; a documentary, “GIMP The Documentary (Work in Process),” directed by Richard Move, which was filmed during a 2008 creative residency at Abrons Art Center in New York City; and a video trailer for “GIMP” edited by Michael Eckblad, which features video footage of the work’s premiere in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2009.
You can tell by the provocative title of the work that “GIMP” is not a piece that attempts to hide the differences of its dancers. To the contrary, the work highlights physical difference and celebrates it in an in-your-face manner. The Millennium Stage performance offered only a glimpse into the complex piece and its making. The “GIMP” excerpts and video footage generated a picture of a work that deserves to be seen in its full length.
Latsky, a former principal dancer with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, explained during the process of creating “GIMP” that art needs conflict. “GIMP” certainly follows that formula. Questions about the nature of beauty and dance bombard the audience. Four dancers came to DC to present the “GIMP” excerpts: Latsky, Lawrence Carter-Long, Jeffrey Freeze, and Catherine Long. Long has one arm. One beautiful arm. And her husband Carter-Long has an unusual gait, a result of cerebral palsy. While they do not look like typical dancers, they dance nonetheless. Their movement is captivating precisely because it’s not typical. “GIMP” focuses upon combining their unique gifts with the gifts of the other dancers.
In a moving solo to Cyndi Lauper’s version of “La Vie En Rose,” Long twisted her upper body, her single arm curving, lifting, and crawling up her chest, ending extended above her in a victory-like reach. In a duet between Freeze and Carter-Long, the two men dared us to compare their bodies. They frequently stood or walked side by side. Freeze mimicked Carter-Long’s clunky stomps and his dramatic falls to the floor. The pair, taking advantage of the tension between them, grabbed shoulders and faces and exchanged pushes and tugs. Carter-Long and his wife performed a duet to the growling sexy tune “I Like the Way (You Move).” The couple moved around the stage holding hands, allowing us to appreciate their strangely pretty but uneven ambulation. Then they slow danced together, swaying in a sweet embrace.
In a question and answer session after the performance, Carter-Long admitted that he never imagined he would be a dancer. He also expressed how liberating it was for him to learn to dance, since he finally was taught to be fully present in his body and to enjoy that experience. Among other things, the excerpts of “GIMP” effectively demonstrated that dance can be performed by all sorts of bodies. Indeed, “GIMP” showed that compelling movement can be produced by someone who is missing a limb or whose knees turn inward. More important to dance than an idealized physical form is the human spirit. This worthy message resounds throughout “GIMP.”