The word "dancer" evokes a picture of a rail-thin, hyper-flexible, graceful ballerina. Heidi Latsky — New York-based artistic director, choreographer, performer and disability rights advocate — set out to challenge this assumption.
She describes her international project, On Display Global, as an inclusive, safe and respectful collaboration in which disabled people perform in an art exhibit and fashion show about “society’s obsession with body image."
She calls the project “a simple human sculpture court.” The performers are of all shapes, sizes and abilities. Some are in wheelchairs or on crutches; others stand in a frozen pirouette or lie folded on the ground. They all move, dance and perform so slowly that they appear to be still.
This year will be Denver’s second time participating in the On Display Global campaign on the International Day of Persons With Disabilities, December 3. Last year’s exhibit took place at Red Rocks; this year’s edition will unfold at Union Station.
Jen GaNun and Jeannete Sharp Oakes, local dancers, instructors and staff members at the Colorado Ballet, are spearheading the On Display Denver project. Both have a passion for dance and experience working with disabled people.
Oakes describes the On Display Global performance as being “rooted in stillness, not choreography"; the project spotlights the slow, expressive movements of each individual and addresses the concept of humans being on display, raising awareness about the experiences of seeing and being seen.
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At Union Station, Oakes hopes to foster an inclusive environment and present as diverse a cast as possible. The performance will take place right in the center of Union Station, or, weather permitting, just outside the station’s doors.
The On Display Global project began in 2015 as a commemoration of the anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The first year there were just two sites — one at the United Nations in New York and the other in Hobart, Australia. In 2016, there were 25 participating cities around the world, and now, in 2017, there are thirty, including Zagreb, Albuquerque, Austin, Hobart, Miami, Denver, Montreal, Madison, Milwaukee, Geneva, Brighton, London, Buenos Aires, Boston, Monteroni, Los Angeles, Toronto, Palencia and San Francisco
The performance will take place on Sunday, December 3, from 3 to 4 p.m., also at Union Station. For more information, go to Heidi Latsky Dance or email OnDisplayDenver@gmail.com.