The stage opened with two swathes of red silk hanging down. A male dancer came onstage, then a female, whose appearance was remarkable both because of her muscular arms and her lack of legs.
As music played, the two began to dance together, wrapping themselves up in the silks, swinging each other around, and hanging from their ankles. The effect was haunting, erotic, and beautiful––more so because the tension between the two dancers had nothing to do with the woman’s disability.
Last Wednesday, Oct. 6, the Scripps College Humanities Institute welcomed renowned choreographer and dancer Heidi Latsky to Garrison Theater, where she and four other dancers performed excerpts from their traveling performance GIMP, which brings disabled dancers and performers together on stage with nondisabled counterparts. Through the project, Latsky challenges traditional notions of dance: disabilities are addressed front and center, and the dancers seem to say, “Yes, I am missing a limb. So what?”
Throughout the piece, frequent solos showcase individual dancers, finding ways to highlight their differences and disabilities—ranging from lack of limbs, foreshortened limbs, and cerebral palsy—as beauty. Yet even for the conventionally-bodied performers who have had regular dance training their whole life, GIMP presents unique challenges. During the question and answer session following the performance, dancer Jeffrey Freeze spoke to the difficulty of stillness in dance, which is a tool Latsky has been implementing more and more as she edges toward minimalism in her choreography.
“Working with your body is a frightening experience,” Latsky explained during the Humanities Institute Junior Fellows’ discussion the next day. “Your body houses your emotions, and when you work with your body, these emotions come out.”
GIMP premiered in 2008 and has since been the subject of two documentaries and featured on National Public Radio. The troupe regularly performs shortened versions of GIMP as educational outreach events like the one at Scripps, in addition to more traditional shows. Latsky also recently previewed her new performace project, titled IF, which will continue the discussion of what is and what is not possible in dance, and performed a never-before-seen solo to the song “La Vie en Rose” as sung by Cyndi Lauper. Both the excerpt from IF and her solo have thus far been well received.
For more information, including a trailer of the performance, visit GIMP’s website at http://www.thegimpproject.com.