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Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011

Unexpected Bodies: Heidi Latsky and ‘The GIMP Project’

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Heidi Latsky was a celebrated principal dancer with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company from 1987-1993. She went on to become a renowned choreographer and teacher in collaboration with Lawrence Goldhuber, and in 2001 she founded her modern dance company in New York, Heidi Latsky Dance. Her work has won widespread acclaim.

Latsky has also been a regular guest of the UWM Peck School of the Arts dance department, where her former colleague in the Jones/Zane Company, Janet Lilly, is a faculty member. She’s developed a teaching method that emphasizes the power of dance to provide insight and healing.

As a choreographer, she’s found her voice in the area of integrated dance—dance created, as she says, “for unexpected bodies.” She’s devoted the last four years to work that combines trained dancers with performers who are physically disabled, some with missing or misshapen limbs, on crutches or in wheelchairs. One legless performer is an acrobat. One dancer is blind, though that’s never apparent—an “invisible disability,” Latsky calls it. Titled The GIMP Project, the work will be performed 8 p.m. Jan. 28-29 in the intimate Helfaer Theatre of Marquette University under the auspices of Alverno Presents.

According to Latsky, the focus of The GIMP Project is not on disability. “It’s on limbs,” she says. “What could I do with people with different limbs? I love working with different bodies, seeing the particular virtuosity of each person, the beauty of each body, and the shapes they make. And I love highly skilled dancers who can do what I can’t do. GIMP has all of that. It’s highly choreographic—the virtuosic, physically dynamic movement that I love. It makes you see beyond the disability to the artistry of each performer.”

In a mission statement, she speaks of social justice, of a society in which difference is upheld, not feared, and in which “people do not detach from their bodies because of external judgments and conventional standards they have internalized.”

In conversation, she underlined the fact that the piece is neither depressing nor weird, but exhilarating and beautiful. The clips on her website confirm this.

For tickets, call 414-288-7504 (Helfaer) or 414-382-6044 (Alverno Presents), or visit Alverno Presents online at alvernopresents.alverno.edu.