DanceForce Member: Ivan Sygoda
Artist: Heidi Latsky
Community Partners: Catskill Mountain Foundation; The Exchange/The Orchard Project
2012-2013 marks the second year of a projected three-year endeavor to make Heidi Latsky’s work with “mixed-ability” dance available to educators and presenters upstate. This includes, specifically, workshops she conducts for and with persons with disabilities, and performative events (lec-dems and concerts) for the public, which highlight the charisma and virtuosity displayed by the many sorts of “unexpected bodies” she puts on stage. In terms of geography, the project began opportunistically with pre-existing interest in Heidi’s work at the universities of Buffalo and Rochester. Since then, efforts to further the project’s reach have been extended along the route of the old Erie Canal.
Planning for 2012-2013 DanceForce projects began with discussions involving the University of Buffalo, where DanceForce had supported activities in the spring of 2012, and SUNY/Albany, a DanceForce member which had an interest in disability issues. (It should be noted in passing that Heidi Latsky Dance received NYState Presenters tour support for 2013-2104 engagements at the University of Rochester and the Catskill Mountain Foundation in Hunter. NYSCA rules preclude mixing DanceForce and NYS Presenters funds, and projects, and so we endeavored to leverage possibilities without contravening the regulations.).
For various reasons, our discussions with Buffalo and Albany came to naught. Discussions with the College at Brockport looked very promising (a visit by Heidi and dancers in late spring of 2013 to prepare for 2013-2104 activities– Heidi’s participation in a dance Duet Festival at Brockport in September and a company residency in February 2014 designed to abut and extend the NYS Presenters-supported residency at the University of Rochester.) But scheduling difficulties involving the Doug Varone and Dancers’ June residency at Brockport made us abandon our June visit, and Brockport faculty schedules precluded Heidi setting a duet on them durinmg the summer. The February 2014 residency is still on the schedule, however.
We initiated discussions with Pam Weisberg at the Catskill Mountain Foundation, where a June 2014 workshop/performance residency was already confirmed. (A DanceForce residency there in June of 2013 would be “legal,” falling as it does in a different fiscal year.) Our original thought was for Heidi to do advance work with the female “Wounded Warriors” with whom she was scheduled to work intensively a year from now. But a differently interesting possibility emerged and we went with it. The Catskill Mountain Foundation hosts the annual Orchard Project of The Exchange, a NYC-based experimental theater organization which used to be known as the Jean Cocteau Rep. Heidi and some of her dancers spent a day at the Orpheum Performing Arts Center in Tannersville, NY, one of the facilities run by the Catskill Mountain Foundation in nearby Hunter. The half-dozen participants in the 2013 Orchard Project were in residence, and Heidi conducted a performance workshop for them. Following that, and open to the public, the Latsky company offered a lec-dem touching on performance and disability issues followed by a Q&A session. The workshop for the Orchard Project was a closed event. The lec-dem, promoted by the Catskill Mountain Foundation to its own audience, was open to the public. As Pam Weisberg intended, the lec-dem appealed especially to seniors. They proved to be a lively and engaged audience. Heidi reports that they asked provocative questions.
There is a back-story to recount. The Catskill Mountain Foundation is a new partner, and, because of facilities and dance programming history, a potential full DanceForce member. Pam Weisberg, the Foundation’s Director of Performing Arts, is an original DanceForce member. She founded and operated Art Awareness in Lexington for many years. So it is wonderful to be working with her again after many years’ hiatus. She “gets” it. This existing connection was foremost in my mind when we approached her about working with Heidi. But I have realized since that there are other reasons why she makes an interesting (actual and prospective) DanceForce partner. In addition to the dance (and music, etc.) residencies they organize directly, the Foundation hosts other organizations which use the excellent facilities for their own purposes. The Adaptive Sports Foundation is the entity that works with the Wounded Warriors. The Exchange is the link to the Orchard Project and its theater acolytes. Pam is thus a go-between, a link not just to her Foundation’s own possibilities, but those represented by the diverse organizations she hosts.