Heidi Latsky Dance presented a stylish and eloquent program last night in Reynolds Theater, as the company made its first appearance at the American Dance Festival (and one does really have to wonder why this first is just now happening for this highly accomplished company). As befitted the longest day of the year, it was a short-evening length work. (The program repeats tonight and the 23rd.) Called Triptych, it comprises two dances and one film of dancers. According to the program, the order of the segments will vary night to night, “to create three separate triptychs over the course of the run.”
Hmm. This kind of thing brings me face to face with the idealizing, classicizing, aspect of my taste–my tendency toward the belief that there is one closest-to-perfect solution to any aesthetic question. The very idea that the order of the parts doesn’t matter makes me feel a little crazy. Although various combinations may be satisfactory, the conceptual gaming bleeds some value from the work for me. And even in Scrabble, not every 3-letter word will yield workable solutions in all six possible combinations. From ART, you can get TAR, or RAT, but also TRA, RTA and ATR. Maybe you could get away with TRA, but RTA and ATR don’t get a pass.
I saw Somewhere (2015)/Soliloquy (2015)/Solo Countersolo (2013). The film, Soliloquy, was sandwiched between the two dances. It is a quite beautiful film, and aside from the fact I felt ripped off by the substitution of film for live bodies (if I want to see dance films, I can go to Screendance, starting June 28), it worked reasonably well between the two dance segments. But the whole time I was watching this Triptych, I was fretting about what would happen if the parts were rearranged. It is the artist’s business to question the validity of everything, but from this viewer’s perspective, the returns on investment of time and attention diminish rapidly when the viewer feels that the artist has not come to a decision and committed to a vision.
To belabor this a little more–the film works as I saw it, in a functional sense, placed between the dances, because it allows for an unbroken flow in the presentation: the dancers have time for a breather and a costume change, from the all-white of Somewhere, to the all-black of Solo Countersolo, or vice-versa. But what happens when the film comes in slot one, or slot three? It must do one of these if there are to be three different triptychs created, their parts hinged without gaps. If there is a time-space between segments, is it still a triptych, or merely (merely!) three separate works complete in themselves? If they are, in fact, complete in themselves, where is the artistic necessity of glomming them together?
OK, enough of that. Taken separately, each segment is pretty damn wonderful. The choreography by Latsky (in collaboration with the dancers) is highly energized with wide-legged stances, open chests, reaching arms, arched backs and through-lines of traveling turns. All this big stuff is enhanced with wonderful, delicate, footwork and further embroidered with hand gestures that can be read as (and perhaps are) the visual poetry of sign language (the hands are especially notable in the white dance, Somewhere, which has a part for a seated man, whose neck, arms, shoulders and hands are the dancing parts). The dancing thrills, combining sleek control with thrashing and shimmying. The lighting, by Robert Wierzel, intensifies the powerful shapes and clean, elegant lines made by the dancers, and sometimes flattens them into backlit silhouettes that then spring back into dimensionality when the lighting changes. All this takes place on a stage handsomely banded with alternating black and white marley strips.
The film, much of it shot in extreme close-up, shows a succession of images in nearly infinite shades of grey, edited together like a dance. It depicts many differently-abled dancers, and one very large man standing still. It’s lovely, and only occasionally a tiny bit preachy. It reminded me very much of Marc Quinn’s marble portraits I saw in 2013 at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice, in which people with “deformities” were presented in a straightforward manner in the most precious material. Take a look at Latsky’s Gimp Project here on her site.
In addition to the seated man, the cast of Somewhere includes another differently-abled dancer. It took me a while to realize this, because he created the most beautiful lines–his “disabilities” had been incorporated into the choreography in such a way that he was often the most charismatic figure on stage. He appears in the film, as well. But had I seen the film first, would the lotus of enlightenment have bloomed in my chest as it did when I realized that this powerful dancer was working with a short leg and curled hand? Sometimes the facts get in the way of the truth of beauty.