Reggie Wilson

Reggie Wilson (Artistic Director, choreographer and performer) founded his company, Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group, in 1989. Wilson draws from the movement languages of the blues, slave and spiritual cultures of Africans in the Americas and combines them with post-modern elements and his own personal movement style to create what he calls "post-African/Neo-HooDoo Modern dances." 

His work has been presented nationally and internationally at venues such as Dance Theater Workshop, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), UCLA Live (Los Angeles), The Flynn (Burlington, VT), Contemporary Arts Center (New Orleans), Dance Umbrella (Austin, TX), Summerstage (NYC), Linkfest and Festival e'Nkundleni (Zimbabwe), Dance Factory (South Africa), Danças na Cidade (Portugal), Festival Kaay Fecc (Senegal), and The Politics of Ecstasy (Berlin, Germany).

Wilson has traveled extensively: to the Mississippi Delta to research secular and religious aspects of life there; to Trinidad and Tobago to research the Spiritual Baptists and the Shangoists; and also to the Southern, Central, West and East of Africa to work with dance and performance groups as well as various religious communities.

Wilson is a graduate of New York University, Tisch School of the Arts (1988, Larry Rhodes, Chair) He has studied composition and been mentored by Phyllis Lamhut; Performed and toured with Ohad Naharin’s NY-based company before forming his own Fist and Heel Performance Group.  He has lectured, taught and conducted extended workshops and community projects throughout the US, Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. He has served as visiting faculty at several universities including Yale, Princeton and Wesleyan Universities. He is the recipient of the Minnesota Dance Alliance's McKnight National Fellowship (2000-2001). Wilson is also a 2002 BESSIE-New York Dance and Performance Award recipient for his work The Tie-tongued Goat and the Lightning Bug Who Tried to Put Her Foot Down and a 2002 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. He has been an artist advisor for the National Dance Project and Board Member of Dance Theater Workshop.  Most recently, in recognition of his creative contributions to the field, Wilson was named a 2009 United States Artists Prudential Fellow and is also the 2009 recipient of the Herb Alpert Award in Dance.

His collaborative evening-length work, The Good Dance – Dakar/Brooklyn had its World premiere at the Walker Art Center in November 2009 and NY premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in December 2009 followed by a ten city US tour.  Presently he is working on the Revisitation, an evening of works to be presented at New York Live Arts March 14th- 17th. His work Moses(es) will be part of the BAM Next Wave Festival 2013.             

Hatchery Project Artist | April 19- 26, 2015

CITIZEN

CITIZEN is Reggie Wilson’s newest project. The seed of this project is inspired by Wilson’s interest and research of the work and life of folklorist, novelist, anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston.  She was among the African-American artists who did not carve a path to Paris or Europe. Wilson looks at the myriad reasons why Hurston favored American soil. He asks the questions: What does it mean to belong and what does it mean to not want to belong?

These triggers evolved Wilson’s select list of African Americans in Paris (some of whom were part of the Negro Renaissance, which has come to be known as The Harlem Renaissance): Josephine Baker, Hurston’s longtime collaborator and friend Langston Hughes, James Reese Europe, W.E.B Du Bois, Richard Wright, Eugene Bullard, and another good friend of Hurston’s Alain Locke, Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and Louis Armstrong. Wilson’s closer investigations of these artists promises new perspective and conceptual support for CITIZEN.

Investigation and research is casting a wide net of interest. Jean Baptiste Belley and William Henry Johnson are emerging as persons-of-interest. Senegal-born M. Belley who fought for Haitian recognition from the French colonists and William H. Johnson, valet to Abe Lincoln, who bears the U.S. government-issued headstone with his name and the title CITIZEN, The Jane Elliot brown eyes and blue eyes social experiment, Pearl Bailey and Carol Channing, are all additionally serving as pivotal and grounding, research elements of this new project.

While at MANCC, Wilson conducted his most exploratory residency to date. He collaborated with photographer and videographer Aitor Mendilibar, investigating the place of video in the work. Mendilibar, whose background is in music and documentaries, was able to explore his relationship to movement, while Wilson examined his relationship to action and choreography through images. They experimented with getting the whole body moving through the whole space and searched for how video can capture emotional content. Moreover, choreographing the action of the camera, considering how the camera frames the action and setting parameters around these investigations all proved to be valuable information for the development of the work.

Fist and Heel Company member and FSU alum, Yeman Brown, who joined Wilson for the first half of the residency, was offered the opportunity to investigate his training, his transition from student into a professional company and what it means to return and share with your community what you have learned. Underscoring the principles of CITIZEN, which asks what does it mean to be responsible as you go out into the world and then come back and share the information, Brown taught a Fist and Heel technique class to SOD students. Then, he, Wilson and collaborators hosted a discussion and Q & A with dance students about the experiences of transitioning from a student dancer to a working professional, sharing with students what he wish he had known and what he had been taught that became essential once he got out in the world. Brown has danced with Fist and Heel since 2013 after joined the company as an apprentice during Wilson’s 2012 MANCC residency, followed by a FSU in NYC internship.

Wilson met with School of Dance professor Tim Glenn to discuss dance technology and the legacy of Nikolais/Louis on their individual work. Wilson also spent considerable time developing movement and at the end of the week, shared a segment of the work-in-progress with a select audience.

This residency is part of The Hatchery Project, a collaborative residency initiative with The Chocolate Factory (Long Island City, NY), RED Arts Project (Philadelphia, PA), Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL), and Vermont Performance Lab (Guilford, VT) and is made possible with major funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional support by the National Endowment for the Arts.

  • Yeman Brown
  • Clement Mensah
  • Clement Mensah
  • Wilson and collaborators speak to FSU students
  • Collaborator Yeman Brown leads FSU master class
  • Fist and Heel master class
  • Aitor Mendilibar videotapes Clement Mensah
  • Clement Mensah explores movement for <em>CITIZEN</em>
  • Wilson, Brown and Aitor Mendilibar
  • Yeman Brown
  • Clement Mensah
  • Clement Mensah
  • Yeman Brown teaches Fist and Heel material to FSU students
  • Yeman Brown leads FSU Master Class
  • Aitor Mendilibar videotapes Clement Mensah
  • Clement Mensah
  • Reggie Wilson
  • Wilson and Brown
  • Yeman Brown
  • Clement Mensah
  • Clement Mensah
  • Clement Mensah, Reggie Wilson, FSU Professor Gerri Houlihan and Yeman Brown
  • Yeman Brown teaches Fist and Heel master class
  • Fist and Heel master class
  • Fist and Heel master class
  • Aitor Mendilibar videotapes Clement Mensah
  • Reggie Wilson

Collaborators in Residence: Yeman Brown, Clement Mensah [performers], Aitor Mendilibar [photographer/videographer]

Hatchery Project Artist | Oct 14 - 28, 2012

Moses(es)

Reggie Wilson, along with Fist and Heel Performance Group, returned to MANCC to continue his research for the new performance piece, Moses(es). The genesis of the new work was prompted partly by his travel to Israel, Egypt, Turkey and Mali and partly by his rereading of Zora Neale Hurston’s Moses, Man of the Mountain, a retelling of the Exodus story as an African American folk tale.  Through the lens of varied Moses stories, Moses(es) looks at the migration of peoples and culture out of Africa and into the rest of the world and pursues a multidimensional inquiry on how we lead and why we follow.

Wilson used his time in residence to not only intertwine the academic component of his research with kinesthetic exploration in the studio, but to also further it by interactions with local FSU scholars. Wilson and collaborator Dr. Susan Manning, met with Dr. Joseph Hellweg of FSU’s Religion Dept. and graduate student, Aaron Ellis to discuss; the many manifestations of Moses across cultures, Zar - an Islamic, women’s, mystic tradition, and fractal symmetry which Wilson explains to be an “organizing principle for everything I am interested in.”  Wilson also met with Dr. Jerrilyn McGregory of the FSU English Department who specializes in both African American folklore and folklife and African Diaspora Studies to discuss Zora Neale Hurston and how her work was shaped by Hurston’s being both a scholar and an artist.

Throughout the course of his residency, Wilson continued to develop the Cohort Tracking Project, which engages students at each developmental site in the making of this work. The FSU cohort group - comprised of a group of cross campus students - attended company rehearsals and interacted with Wilson and the Fist and Heel Performance Group.  Additionally, FSU School of Dance student Yeman Brown served as a Residency Apprentice and participated in rehearsals for the new work.

This residency is part of The Hatchery Project, a new collaborative residency initiative with The Chocolate Factory (Long Island City, NY), Live Arts Brewery/Philadelphia Live Arts Festival (Philadelphia, PA), Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL), and Vermont Performance Lab (Guilford, VT) and is made possible with major funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional support by the National Endowment for the Arts.

  • Fist and Heel Performance Group
  • Paul Hamilton
  • Raja Feather Kelly, Clement Mensah, Dwayne Brown
  • Reggie Wilson
  • FSU Student and Residency Apprentice Yeman Brown
  • Raja Feather Kelly
  • Lawrence A.W. Harding
  • FSU Residency Apprentice Yeman Brown rehearses with Fist and Heel Performance Group
  • Collaborators Paul Hamilton and Dr. Susan Manning with Reggie Wilson
  • <i>Moses(es)</i> rehearsal
  • <i>Moses(es)</i> rehearsal
  • <i>Moses(es)</i> rehearsal
  • Reggie Wilson watches video with Fist and Heel Performance Group
  • Reggie Wilson talks with Fist and Heel performers and FSU student cohort members
  • Reggie Wilson responds to cohort member and FSU School of Dance student Desiree Amadeo
  • Reggie Wilson
  • Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel, Residency Apprentice Yeman Brown and the FSU cohort group
  • Clement Mensah
  • Clement Mensah
  • Clement Mensah
  • <i>(project) Moseses Project</i> rehearsal
  • Reggie Wilson with Fist and Heel Performance Group
  • Fist and Heel Performance Group
Collaborators in Residence: Rhetta Aleong, Dwayne Brown, Paul Hamilton, Lawrence A.W. Harding, Raja Feather Kelly, Clement Mensah, Anna Schon [Performers], Dr. Susan Manning [Dramaturge], Yeman Brown [Residency Apprentice]. Slideshow photos by Chris Cameron.

Visiting Artist | November 30 – December 13, 2009 January 12 – 19, 2009

The Good Dance - Dakar/Brooklyn

In their first residency, Wilson and Congalese choreographer Andréya Ouamba conducted research for the movement and thematic thread of The Good Dance - Dakar/Brooklyn with particular focus on their duet in the new work. The work examines the influence of Central African culture on world performance forms as well as the metaphoric, historic and real world parallels of the Mississippi and Congo rivers and their cultures.

Immediately following the world premiere at the Walker Art Center in October, 2009, Wilson and Ouamba returned with the full cast to re-visit the work for two weeks prior to the New York premiere and first engagements at BAM Next Wave Festival.

Collaborators in Residence: Andréya Ouamba [co-choreographer and Director of Compagnie 1er Temps], Michel Kouakou, Anna Schon, Rhetta Aleong, Paul Hamilton, Marcel Gbeffa [Fist and Heel Performance Group ], Fatou Cisse [Compagnie 1er Temps]. Slideshow photos by Kathryn Noletto Felis. 

World Premiere

Lin Hixson and
Matthew Goulish

The Three Matadores
March 11 & 12

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