Reggie Wilson

Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group


November 2013
“One of this country’s most talented choreographers”
– Claudia La Rocco,
The New York Times


    Moses(es) explores our relationships to leadership and the effects of migration on beliefs and customs. Grounded in Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Moses, Man of the Mountain and with exploratory travels to Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Mali, the work looks at the migration of peoples and culture out of Africa and into the rest of the world. Conversations, interviews, research (kinesthetic and academic), and aesthetic crafting shape this dynamic full-length work.

    Moses(es), Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group’s full-length dance performance examines how we lead and why we follow. It explores and questions our expectations and relationships to leadership and how the effects of migration on beliefs and customs are inter-connected to who we consider our Leaders. Grounded in Wilson’s re-reading of Zora Neale Hurston’s Moses, Man of the Mountain (the Moses story told as a Southern folk tale in African-American vernacular), and with his exploratory travels to Israel, Egypt, Turkey and Mali, (project) Moseses Project examines the migration of peoples and culture from Africa out into the world, with particular attention paid to the effects that migration has on beliefs. Wilson’s research for this project has landed on the intersection of the origins of Monotheism and African cultures.

    Reggie Wilson’s development of this new work embodies three points of expansion and growth in his creation process that will increase the standard and strength of the production values to create a well-integrated performance. 1. Long-time lighting design collaborator Jonathan Belcher is being included earlier in Phases I and II and consistently throughout the project timeline to insure the work maintains aesthetic integrity when being performed in large and small venues (200-300-seat black box to proscenium Opera House). 2. Company vocalists for the first time will work with a sound engineer to layer and incorporate live vocals and possible texts with pre-recorded music to be manipulated for the performance. Sound will include Hip-hop, House, with Traditional: Egyptian Zar (Mazahar), Senegalese (Yandé Coudou Séne), Zanzibar (BiKudude), U.S. (Elaine Flowers and Lia McPherson) and live vocals by Fist and Heel performers. And 3. A shift and enhancement in the way Wilson is working with his research, information-gathering and development stages; He is utilizing a new level of benchmarks throughout the different phases of the timeline (see below). On this project he is working with dramaturge Susan Manning in a scholarly manner to organize the specific research; this, in addition to his process of investigative work with primary sources and practitioners in the field. The expectation is that these areas of expansion, growth and development will make a complete experience.

    Moses(es) is funded in part by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the MetLife Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts; the MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC); The Harkness Foundation For Dance

    Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group is a Brooklyn based dance company which blends contemporary dance with African traditions. The company makes brilliant new performance from the spiritual traditions of the African Diaspora. Wilson draws on the movement idioms of Blues, Slave and Worship cultures to create what he calls “Post-African Neo Hoodoo Modern dance”. Accompanied by their own driving rhythms — body percussion, aspirated breath, singing and shouts — Fist & Heel blends deep ritual into potent, beautiful and energizing contemporary dance.

    The Story of “Fist and Heel”
    “Fist and heel is clapping and stomping, shouting and hollerin’ – and the manipulation of energies” explains Reggie Wilson. “Drums denied and confiscated, enslaved Africans reinvented their spiritual tradition in the Americas as a soulful art form white authorities dismissed as merely “fist and heel worshipping.”

    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), and Festival Kaay Fecc (Senegal), 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 North, 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 and has been an artist advisor for the National Dance Project and Board Member of Dance Theater Workshop. He is the recipient of the Minnesota Dance Alliance’s McKnight National Fellowship (2000-2001), 2002 BESSIE and a 2002 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2009 he was the Herb Alpert Award recipient in Dance, and also a Prudential USA Fellow in recognition of his creative contributions to the field. Most recently, he was named a Joyce Foundation Award recipient and is a member of the inaugural class of Doris Duke Performing Artists.

    In March 2012 an evening of works, theRevisitation, was presented at New York Live Arts. His newest work Moses(es) will have its world premiere in the Fall of 2013 and be part of the BAM Next Wave Festival December 2013.

    “Shuffling feet send the body forward and backward with a deceptively simple refinement. Anyone could master the motion, but only a choreographer of Mr. Wilson’ s innate warmth could successfully put it on a contemporary-dance stage.”
    -Gia Kourlas, The New York Times

    “Supremely modest, instructive and endearing…”
    -Lewis Segal, Los Angeles Times

    “Highly sophisticated… What you come away with is the sense of the African base as an endless font of inspiration”
    -Sarah Kaufman, The Washington Post

    “Brilliant wit and seriousness”
    -Anna Kisselgoff, The New York Times

    “African tradition meets postmodern artist with a bang… a sense of mystery that is at once exhilarating as it is unsettling”
    -Julinda Lewis, Dance Magazine

    “Again, the patterns and rhythms resonate, and the disruptions reveal basic human truths”
    -Brian McCormick, LGNY

    “The shimmer of a kaleidoscope in which dance forms and cultural traditions moved through time…the effect is hypnotic and energizing.”
    -Lucia Mauro, The Chicago Tribune

    “Rooted in the vibrancy of rhythm, the works of Reggie Wilson makes for his Fist and Heel Performance Group are elegantly structured; the man knows how to build a dance.”
    -Deborah Jowitt, The Village Voice

    “At other times, the live performers’ voices rise in praise-Flowers’ surprisingly deep sound, Aleong’s high, slightly nasal on; Harding’s baritone; and Wilson’s call a tone or so above it. The power of those harmonies!”
    -Deborah Jowitt, The Village Voice

    “Infectiously joyous…The sacred and the secular inform each other, and dance and music become a single art based on pulse and breath.”
    -Tobi Tobias, The Village Voice

    “Technically stunning and emotionally raw.”
    -A.O. Scott, New York Times Magazine

    “One of this country’s most talented choreographers”
    -Claudia La Rocco, The New York Times

    “Some nights a critic’s job feels impossibly good and divinely difficult: how even to begin to get at, through words, the quicksilver, complex art you’ve just experienced? What to say to readers, other than ‘Please stop reading and purchase a ticket for this show’?”
    The New York Times

    Just when you think it can’t get any better (Jodi Melnick! Danspace Project’s Platform series! Sarah Michelson!), a show like “theRevisitation” comes along, and it does.
    The New York Times