Elegantly Radical - Equally Different
Imagine walking into a museum where the sculpture becomes animated, everywhere you look a cast of diverse bodies seek your gaze. They sit, they stand, drape over a wheelchair. There’s the old, the young, big and small, tattooed and the scarred and they are all clothed in white. They are a rhythmic, elegant, radical mass. On Display is an ongoing performance installation by New York City’s Heidi Latsky Dance company that seeks to explore the body as a spectacle and our obsession with body image. This minimal installation is agile and collaborative and continues to grow with performances in public spaces, art galleries, institutions. The simplicity of the idea belies the power of its execution and ideology, an inclusive celebration of difference through art.
United Nations, photograph Dariel Sneed
Founded in 2001, the mission of Heidi Latsky Dance is, “to redefine beauty and virtuosity through performance and discourse, using performers with unique attributes to bring rigorous, passionate and provocative contemporary dance to diverse audiences.” Lastly works with a company of dancers and performers, some of which have disabilities, although Latsky has said she's uncomfortable with the negative connotations of this term as Siobhan Burke of the New York Times describes, "for the choreographer Heidi Latsky, there are no unbeautiful bodies and no bodies incapable of dancing. In what some might call disability, she finds possibility.”
The collaborative possibilities of On Display were brillantly demonstrated by a recent project with teenagers from NuVu a full-time innovation school for middle and high school students. This place sounds fascinating in itself, a space where students learn, ‘to navigate the messiness of the creative process, from inception to completion by prototyping and testing,’ based on an architectural studio model. A bit of a mouthful to get around but anywhere that teens can explore problems creatively across disciplines seems like an amazing idea to me.
The project set teams of students to create 5 sculptural wearables for 5 of the dancers, who worked out a design for a wearable sculpture based on the conversations and characteristics of the performers. There was Tiffany’s ‘Ray of Sun’ created by Chris Prebble, Evy Dibble and Madeline Tallarico, that focuses on ‘fiery,bold and strong character’ and which ‘transforms into a representation of how she loves to surprise people with her capabilities and gets energy from the sunlight’.
Tiffany, Photograph Amro Arida
For Jerron a dancer with cerebral palsy that affects his left side. Nina Crag, Nya Rudek and Teresa Lourie picked up on an idea he kept talking about, "taking up space" that related to him having to make the space he deserved because no one would do it for him. The results were the Spatial Expander – a petal-like object that comes off his shoulder – where petals lay flat until Jerron pulls a string which stand them up.
Jerron, Photograph Amro Arida
For Anita Hollander, an actress, songwriter, director and teacher who lost her leg to cancer, Alana Press and Eli Krieger produced, Morphing Scales, a 3D printed resin piece inspired by one of her own songs about mermaids, that relates to people’s reactions to her when swimming with her daughter.
Anita, photograph Amro Arida
The results of the project are personal, uplifting and beautiful. It begs the question why this still feels like an exception when it should be something that we engage in everyday, a celebration of the talents and creativity of one another and an appreciation that we are all equally different.