Theater archives

Honoring Life


Heidi Latsky sprints into dancing like a small force of nature tamed by technical prowess. So it’s surprising that she begins her new Disjointed supine and immobile, clutching a strip of red cloth, while others dance. These others (25 of them, dressed in white) flood the area—bending, letting their breath expand their bodies upward, spreading their arms as if considering flight. Kathy Kaufmann’s lighting throws their shadows on the walls, while projected overhead, Alison Rootberg’s close-up, black-and-white images of Latsky’s face and body elongate on the church’s arched ceiling.

Dances reveal meaning in various ways. Some spool out linear narratives via action, gesture, media, text—whatever it takes. In others, the interplay of movement and form, with or without music, may tell a deep, enigmatic story of feeling that can’t be articulated any other way, to which we may all respond differently. Still others are fragmentary aspects of an experience, selected and juxtaposed by the choreographer.

Latsky, judging from Disjointed and her powerful 2003 Bound, pursues meaning in this last way. She has no tale to recount, and much of the movement she creates expresses primarily the heroism of individuals who hurl themselves against life with love and determination. Tragedy doesn’t wilt this woman, nor is it tragedy she wants to show.

Disjointed honors Latsky’s late mother, who battled brain tumors for decades. If we read that fact in the program before viewing the piece, it’s easy to picture the ensemble people first as angels or departed spirits. When, later, wearing hats, they strut triumphantly in a long snaking parade to Carl Orff’s rousing music, we can connect them with Brain Tumor Action Week (May 1 through 7). The scattered piles of Kleenex that constitute Matthew Eggleton’s set design evoke both clouds and illness. We can imagine the songs—like “La Mer” (sung in English) and “Parlez-moi d’amour,” cropping up in the atmospheric score (credited to Frank Ponzio plus Kym Serrano)—to have been Sandra Latsky’s favorites.

Even without reading the program, we get a sense of Nathan Trice as a watchful outsider-leader who could easily be a death figure. When Latsky stretches upward to the sound of heartbeats, he copies her. Toward the end of the piece, when he dances alone, she hesitantly imitates his steps. (Sean Curran choreographed this duet.)

But Latsky, co-director Kris Lefcoe, and dramaturge Brian Glover favor obliqueness—afraid, perhaps, of being too literal. Latsky, Trice, and Jeffrey Freeze—all wearing black—are involved in a relationship that’s at a remove from any mother-daughter one. Latsky and Freeze dance together, he lifting her high. Freeze solos, performing with lusty virtuosity, but eventually falters and collapses. In the end, Trice carries him away, while Latsky, looking vaguely upset, launches herself into terrific powerhouse dancing that gradually does seem to become disjointed. On the ceiling, a projection shows her naked and pregnant: A mother dies; a daughter is born.

Baldly put in words, the above actions sound emotionally charged. Yet the choreography doesn’t fully tap into feelings that might cling to the loss of a loved one, with the desolation of absence and the life-affirming memories of a presence. Latsky’s fragments come close to cohering and then slide away.