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Flash Review, 1-26: Everybody Dance Now
Mirror Mirror With Goldhuber & Latsky at Joyce

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2000 The Dance Insider

So you're back in drama class, and the teacher has you playing the mirror game. You know the drill: She goes around the room dividing the group between 1's and 2's. You partner with a 2. When the teacher calls out 1, the 1's lead, and the 2 mirrors. When she calls out 2, vice versa. When she calls out no leader, you're supposed to move in synch, so that no one can tell who's leading. Now, imagine that you're a guy with two left feet, or some extra weight on him--say, coming in at 300 pounds--and you find yourself paired with not only the best dancer in the class, the most deft mover, but the one destined to become a star. This is the predicament the 300-pound Lawrence Goldhuber found himself in Tuesday at the Joyce Theater, as he faced off against Heidi Latsky, a.k.a. Gumby.

Lest you think me weightist, I didn't introduce the disparity between the hefty Goldhuber and the elfin Latsky. It's in the promo material. Silly me, I took this as a signal that all Goldhuber & Latsky would have to offer was at best, a comic riff on their size difference and, at worse, a one-trick pony. Boy, was I ever wrong. Drawing attention to their differing body sizes may have been their sly way of saying, "I'm small, he's big, get over it."

The achievement of this tactic was that, once the dance started, the question was not, "He's fat--why is he dancing?" but rather, "He's fat, they acknowledge it--now what are they going to do with it?"

What the former Bill T. Jones colleagues did--with Bill T. watching from the audience--in their evening called "I Hate Modern Dance" was present a strong case for loving not just modern dance, but dance, period. This is a swan in hyena's skin.

This dance totally took me by surprise. Not having seen this company before, I had the mis-preconception that it would be another one of those alumni-of-famous-choreographer spin-offs--perhaps great dancing, but mediocre choreography, with no clear independent vision. Stupid Me.

What Goldhuber & Latsky presented was not just a meditation on what it means to be a dancer, but what it means to dance. And on how, as much as we have come to associate the gift of dancing with physical facility, dance is just as much about the spirit. This is something I have been harping on in my ballet Flashes (See Flash ALARM, 1-16: Robbins is Burning): The pain of watching dancers whose physical facility is great, but whose emotional battery appears dead. Those ballet dancers need to see their brother dancer Mr. Goldhuber. Inside those 300 pounds lies a heart that all dancers should aim for. Who gives a flying fuck if he can't lift his foot to his ear? Goldhuber can give any young ballet Wunderkind a schooling in what it means to FEEL a dance, and to give that warmth to the audience.

As you can see, it's going to be a challenge to calm myself down enough to, um--oh yeah, the dance!--describe what actually happened on stage tonight, choreographically. But for all the right reasons. At this moment, my strongest impulse is not to write about dance, but to dance....okay, hang on a second....Little trip to the turntable.....Some C&C Music Factory....

Okay, I'm bopping, but I'm back. Remember the scene in "Big," at FAO Schwarz, where there's a huge piano keyboard spread, Twister-like, over the floor, and Robert Loggia plays it with his feet--essentially dancing over the keys to produce the music? Well, that's what I wish I could do right now, to write this review with my wanna-dance feet hitting the keys. Let's try. Toes, don't fail me now!

mmrf gfo;ldhuinnb3errtf aasaasserdsssdeds

....Hmmm. Well, I guess if this were a Zen review the type-with-the-toes approach might work, but this being a Flash Review I guess I'll have to do this the fast way, with my fingers, and get to the point. Here goes:

In the first part of "I Hate Modern Dance," choreographed and performed by Goldhuber and Latsky, the actor-dancers stand center stage, each wearing a leather vest, white shirt, and dark brown pants. Her vest is buttoned. His is open. Mindfuck! As they stand there for a mini-eternity, I think: "Okay, this IS going to be a take-off on bad modern dance." Eventually, Goldhuber looks askance at Latsky, assesses her, and switches to the other side of her. More waiting.

Soon the dance proper kicks in and, contained within a taped-off rectangle, it is a schoolyard contest between friendly adversaries. She leans on him, board-like, as he lets her down. He leans on her, as she does the same, huffing and puffing. She runs offstage, pursued by him. They re-enter, this time her chasing him. Then she comes back, towing the prostrate Goldhuber behind her by his legs. He looks at us--"this is the life!"--then folds his hands behind his head as she continues to tug. Then she lets him down, and straddles him. He sits up; they embrace; and suddenly the dynamic is romantic; until they rise, and he won't let her go.

This curtain-raiser seems to lay-out the theme, but it's a red herring, indicating that the evening will be comic in tone, and light in intent.

As soon as Robert Wierzel's lights come up for the next section, any pretense of comedy is discarded. We see three squares of light. Left to right: Latsky, her arms stretching to the heavens, an effect achieved by limitless sleeves that extend from her shoulders to the fly; a table set with glasses, a wine bottle, and a turkey; and Goldhuber, naked, everything hanging out.

When the lights come up fully on Goldhuber, we see that this "fat man" is in an even larger "fat suit," designed by Liz Prince. From comfortably but still mobilely overweight, he has become a Buddha, a Sumo wrestler. And he is not comfortable with it. The feeling--at least as I got it--was of a not-fat man--or, if you will, a guy who wants to dance--trapped in a fat body. He waddles back and forth (Weebles wobble but they don't fall down!). He looks around, befuddled; what am I doing in this body? He stays pretty much in one spot, trapped not only in his own flesh, but in a restricted space, by his inability to move. It ends with his methodically rubbing his belly. When he returns, he has discarded the fake fat suit, but is still rubbing his belly; perhaps a bit more acceptingly?

When Latsky returns freed from the sleeves, we see a lyrical adagio dance. (All of this to Brahms's Sonata for Cello and Piano #3, performed with equal lyricism by Michael Grigsby and Chris Lancaster.) Perhaps Latsky is here challenging the "I Hate Modern Dance." In contrast to much modern dance I see, Latsky dances to the music, subsuming herself to it, making it a canvas on which to paint her movement.

The next section, "Hate," starts cloyingly: an announcer telling us urgently that tonight's event has been cancelled, at the same time that a cautious Goldhuber appears at the downstage right corner. As he progresses on a diagonal, we see that he is wearing a dress with an almost stage-length train, its end clutched by the damp-haired Latsky, in sheer black Lesley Dill costume (Dill co-created this segment). Goldhuber and dress eventually disappear, leaving Latsky to perform a tour-de-force, burrowing-into-the music, riding-with-the-beats, pulsating-and-ebbing-with-the-volume dance. She kicks, she twirls, she whips and whirls hands and fingers and arms about. She's a creature from the sea, of the music, servant to the beat, slave to the rhythm. This kick-ass music--and seeing how it inspired and consumed Latsky--was where I started wanting to dance and throw my hands in the air like I just didn't care.

Latsky leaves, and Goldhuber, now in white with hooded sweatshirt, returns, in a wandering dance of perplexity. He mutters to us center stage, as Latsky in elegant dress with long train crosses the stage above him, only to return, herself in white, top cut at the mid-riff, and they dance together. No longer adversaries, becoming more partners, with lots of lifts and clinging and connecting, physically and emotionally. They have accepted that the recess bell will not ring soon, and they will be partnering each other for a while.

Here follows the only weak--unless it's meant to be satiric--section of the evening, a Gretchen Bender film of our stars called "Head Duet." With it's just-this-side-of-insipid New Ageish Joe Jackson music, and close-up focus, this seems like one of those self-conscious dance videos you might see at the Museum of Modern Art. I'm not commenting on the dancing or choreography here, but on its fawning presentation by the film-maker.

We're back on track with the finale, 'Dance,' which begins in another sort of mindfuck. The music on which Vernon Reid layers his beats is not credited in the program; oops! So I can only guess: It starts with a Glenn Miller-style big band tune, as Goldhuber and Latsky enter in a harmonious ballroom mode. Nat Cole, Johnny Mathis, and "Disco Inferno" (Tavares?) are among what follows, all layered with beats by Reid, the only composer credited.

If this final section starts as a generic happy ending, Goldhuber and Latsky are not through with their theme. At one point, both exit, and Latsky returns with a life-size Goldhuber dummy/puppet (designed by James Godwin? The program is unclear.), dressed, like him, all in classy white--even suspenders. Then he enters with a Latsky clone, similarly bedecked in orange bell-bottomed jumpsuit. Each seems to relish going to town with manipulatable dummies; she tosses the Goldhuber doppelganger roughly to the floor and, doing something she has not done with the real guy, kisses him. He twirls the dummy her around. For the first time, he is in charge, he the more powerful mover. He gets so giddy that he finally grabs his own double and rolls around on the floor with him, ending with both in a sitting position, backs to the audience, leaning their heads together.

As the score goes into full disco mode, all four enter in a conga line, vamping at the audience, dummies and real dancers alike. Then each real one tosses their dummy partner off stage, and finally, they come together, Goldhuber twirling Latsky as the lights delicately dim.

After the show, my ideas bouncing as out of control as my feet, I stopped by Ali Baba's on MacDougal for the pre-Flash shawerma. On the telly, a flaxen-haired anchor was saying, "Imagine if you're in an elevator at the Empire State Building, and it plunges 40 floors, from the 44th to the Fourth Floor." Pan to shell-shocked tourist: "I never want to get in an elevator again."

I suspect this is how many people feel after an unsuccessful journey to the dance floor, or a baffling trip to the dance theater. Lawrence Goldhuber and Heidi Latsky teach us that we don't have to fear either dancing or watching dance.

After the elevator from Hell, the news switched to a City Hall press conference, where Mayor Rudy Guiliani was in the midst of presenting a key to the city to Ringling Brothers Circus, when he was interrupted by demonstrators from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, shouting "Free the animals" before they were hauled off.

After seeing Goldhuber/Latsky Wednesday, I say: Free your feet. Free your soul. Or, to quote a certain former student at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. "You Can Dance." Feets, don't fail me now!

Goldhuber & Latsky repeats Jan. 29 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 30 at 2.

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