Magazine article Dance Magazine

Stage Presence 101: Heidi Latsky Teaches Performance Skills

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Stage Presence 101: Heidi Latsky Teaches Performance Skills

Article excerpt

To the plaintive sounds of Handel's aria from Saul, 19 dancers slowly carried folding chairs across Steps on Broadway studio at the start of choreographer Heidi Latsky's If. After setting down the chairs, some of the dancers slid to the floor while others rose in arabesques or walked in circles. They devised more elaborate combinations as the piece continued, until the exhilarating close when they suddenly went from wildly different moves to absolute stillness, seated on the chairs. The assembled crowd sat spellbound. In only a few classes over a couple of months in Latsky's course in performance skills, these students had learned how to grab an audience and hold its attention.

"Most people assume that you are born with great stage presence," said Latsky recently, after finishing a rehearsal of her company, Heidi Latsky Dance, in a Manhattan studio. "But that isn't true. It can be taught and you can learn it. They say you can't teach charisma but when someone is completely his or her self, you become fascinated with them. The Steps students proved it."

A small, blond curly-haired woman with a lot of energy, she learned her performance skills through experience. Coming late to dance at 20, she felt a lot of anxiety about being onstage. "I was an incredibly shy kid, and a nervous wreck when I had to perform," she says. "To get through it, I had to become very internal and create a world for myself onstage. I learned that it's all about sticking to a task and staying focused. Too often, dancers emote or impose their ideas on their roles. Then they come across as false."

Latsky had some good teachers. As a member of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company for seven years, she could observe Jones and fellow dancer Sean Curran (now a choreographer and faculty member of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University) at work, and study how they could simply stand there and completely engage an audience. …

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