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Heidi Latsky: The Artist to Watch

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Heidi Latsky is a nice Jewish girl from Canada. Not the usual brand of trendy, out there dancer/choreographer that the modern dance world cultivates as the "it" dancer/choreographer to watch.

But, if you were lucky enough to get a ticket to the sold out shows of Latskys' IF: A Work in Two Parts last weekend, you had the opportunity to experience a culmination of artistry that has percolated and grown over 30 years. Some artists are one hit wonders, some get enough acclaim to grow their craft over time. Luckily for us as audience members, Latsky never gave up and given her accomplishments, has been afforded that patronage.

Living in NYC is a bit akin to a Roman orgy. You can binge now and then, but you've got to pace yourself. As a cultured person one has to pick and choose amidst the bounty. Heidi Latsky is that dancer/choreographer to see. I have followed her since her days when she was picked out of the minors into the major leagues to dance with Arnie Zane/Bill T. Jones Dance Co. Always breathtakingly agile, virtuosic and physical in her movements, Arnie Zane recognized her artistry and asked her to choreograph a solo for their season at BAM, in Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Thus began Latsky's exposure to the larger world as a choreographer. After leaving the company, Latsky continued choreographing, working with Sean Curran, Larry Goldhuber and others.

About five years earlier, Latsky was approached by Lisa Bufano to choreograph a dance. Bufano was a trained dancer who had sustained a double amputation right below the knee, along with all of her digits. The performances at Judson Church were extraordinary and sparked Latsky's interest and collaboration with performers in the disabled community.

"Latsky's work beautifully resets the preconceptions about bodies and movement" was the New Yorker reaction to Gimp, a full evening-length work with dancers of varying abilities and disabilities that premiered here a few years ago and has been met with raves and sold out shows across Europe and in the U.S. In Gimp, the near-naked dancers, some with missing limbs, some with gnarled and misshapen bodies, dare you to stare. They invite us to have a good old look; they put it right out there from one of the opening lines: "Three cripples walk into a bar." Yes, these bodies move; these bodies have sex. Everything you ever wondered about but were afraid to look, here it is.

The premiere named IF, though, is a whole different ball of wax from what we have learned to expect from Latsky. We expect to see some of the most extraordinary, eloquent and beautiful, yes, I said it, beautiful, dance movement from Latsky and the people she attracts to work with her; among them Jeffrey Freeze, Jenny Rocha, Meredith Fages, and Jillian Leigh Hollis. For anyone who knows anything about modern dance, you will recognize these names, and if you can catch their performances, go! They are all exquisite dancers and performers.

IF also incorporates performers with varying body shapes and disabilities. Not all are visible, or obvious; I had no idea that Suleiman Rifai, one of the dancers in Part One alongside Latsky and Freeze, is blind. Didn't have a clue.

But shortly into Part Two, when the stage fills with 16 performers, you become immersed in the tableaux that begin to appear like a moving painting. Directed by Latsky to remain in their chairs, relationships evolve between couples. It is almost like watching a house with many rooms sectioned off, little dramas unfolding in each. But for a lone roller skater and a woman in a wheel chair tracing motions on the stage, at a point one pulling the other, the performers remain connected to their chairs; each one individually pushing themselves to the limit, physically and emotionally.

Like all truly satisfying great art, you can experience IF on an in intellectual, visceral, emotional and visual level. If art is supposed to make you think, feel, and experience something outside of the bounds of what you are accustomed to, IF is just that work. She may not be the flash in the pan, or the fashionable it girl of the modern dance world, but Heidi Latsky has emerged as the artist to watch.