Reggie Wilson / Fist & Heel Performance Group
Sept 8-10 2016
75 minutesDescriptionAbout the ArtistInterviewFurther Reading
“More and more questions about what it means to be a citizen in America, over history and to-date, started to saturate my thoughts.” Reggie Wilson, choreographer
“His dances, which rely heavily on songs and rhythms . . . sprout from one concept, but by the time he’s finished, they are a garden of references, memories, and ideas. ” Gia Kourlas, The New York Times
What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to NOT want to belong?
This greatly expressive, physically virtuosic company takes audiences on an exploration of the core human impulse to belong, and the ways that a society treats race, culture, and income to influence one’s identity in a group. CITIZEN is a contemporary dance that confronts the complex challenges, struggles, judgments, and webbing between anonymity and community, between ideas of individual self and of being a citizen of your homeland or your adopted homeland. This exhilarating and provocative work features layered interplay between dancers, film, and shadow—and a masterful display of motion.
Thu, Sep 8 at 7pm: 20th Annual Fringe Festival Opening Night*!
Fri, Sep 9 at 8pm
Sat, Sep 10 at 8pm
$29 general / $20.30 member
$15 student + 25-and-under
*20th Annual Fringe Festival Opening Night
Celebrate 20 years of defying expectation, challenging convention and inspiring new ways of thinking. Join us for a toast to 20 more years while supporting the mission of FringeArts.
Following the world premiere of CITIZEN by Reggie Wilson / Fist & Heel Performance Group, President and Producing Director Nick Stuccio, Executive Chef Peter Woolsey, and Choreographer Reggie Wilson collaborate to create a memorable evening of food, drink, and performance with Festival friends and family.
Fringe Festival Opening Night tickets are $75 and include:
7pm–8:30pm World Premiere of CITIZEN by Reggie Wilson / Fist & Heel Performance Group
8:30pm–10pm Artist reception with Choreographer Reggie Wilson and FringeArts President and Producing Director Nick Stuccio, including open bar and hors d’oeuvres.
Choreographer Reggie Wilson Dance Cinematographer Aitor Mendillibar Lighting Designer Christopher Kuhl Costume Designer Enver Chakartash Performers Yeman Brown, Raja Feather Kelly, Clement Mensah, Anna Schön, Annie Wang
Photos: Aitor Mendilibar
The presentation of CITIZEN by Reggie Wilson was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Andrew and Bryna Scott
About Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group
Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group is a Brooklyn-based dance company that investigates the intersections of cultural anthropology and movement practices and believes in the potential of the body as a valid means for knowing. Reggie Wilson draws from the cultures of Africans in the Americas and combines them with post-modern elements and his own movement style to create “post-African/Neo-HooDoo Modern dances.” Their performance work is a continued manifestation of the rhythm languages of the body provoked by the spiritual and the mundane traditions of Africa and its Diaspora, including the Blues, Slave and Gospel idioms. The group has received support from major foundations and corporations and has performed at notable venues throughout the United States and abroad.
Previous Festival show: Moses(es).
Interview with Reggie Wilson
FringeArts: What was the initial inspiration for CITIZEN?
Reggie Wilson: Things were probably brewing before my visit to Paris in January 2014. I continue to always be inspired by Zora Neale Hurston, her life and her works. The fact that Zora always came back to America, made her life and work here, even though friends and other artists went to other countries, many to Paris, because they couldn’t, didn’t want to deal with an America that was telling them that they were not wanted, that they were less than. Around that same time Memphis Ballet asked me to create a work for their “I AM” Project. I was invited to work with the theme I AM A MAN. Ideas began to percolate and as I began to do research for this commission. More and more questions about what it means to be a citizen in America, over history to-date started to saturate my thoughts. So as exotic as Paris was to say that it was the initial place of inspiration, I feel that it was Memphis and the Mississippi Delta that was really the confirmation point-of-inspiration for my new work CITIZEN. More research and inspirations were made as I worked on an 18-month-long project called Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia with the Painted Bride in Philly.
FringeArts: What have you been observing to draw from for the movement of your dancers?
Reggie Wilson: I have kept it no secret that one of my main focuses has been migrations of the folks of the African Diaspora. This may stem from searches to know my own family’s branches and migrations up north from the Mississippi Delta to Milwaukee, where I was born. My interest in various migrations has expanded and has influenced many aspects of my work. I travel quite a bit, so that I can culturally experience much of the Diaspora from the inside. But as much as I’m let in, in so many places I remain and will be an outsider in various ways. Nevertheless, what I see, experience, smell, taste, enjoy, get traumatized by . . . causes much stirring inside me and is processed, filtered, and comes out in the movement and performances. It’s good, tough, challenging work but I wouldn’t have it another way. So, travelling is my best source material. I think it has to do with destabilizing myself enough so that I can see/experience differently, question my own perceptions, eliminate “judginess” so that I can see motional ideas within cultures and be stimulated by everydayness and humanity.
FringeArts: What have you discussing with your dancers?
Reggie Wilson: The Rhythm. The rhythms. And also the clarity of the individual movements and phrases are really important to me. Their weight and rootedness in their pelvis are especially significant; their directions, facings. We talk about resilience, determination and how it emerges out of the repetition. Anonymity vs. a sense of community and civic duties; co-existence of contradictions, irony, dignity, freedom, the past, the present—what does it means to them personally? This stuff gets woven into the texture of the choreography and exudes implicitly and explicitly. The performers have a lot to contend with and think about; I think it’s their rigor and use of their immense skills and stamina that are making the work into a powerful dialogue.
FringeArts: You are investigating these two ideas simultaneously: “What does it mean to belong” and “What does it mean to NOT want to belong.” What brought about this second idea joining the first?
Reggie Wilson: I believe it comes out of a general belief of accepting “both/and.” That’s a long story. However related to black folks (as well as many many others I am sure), the contradictory feeling of belonging somewhere or to some group then because of maltreatment also having the feeling of not wanting to belong. Why should someone want to belong where they are not wanted?
Well, I will refer back to an initial point-of-research, Zora Neale Hurston—what was it? What was the struggle, the internal and external dialogue that she must have gone through? Always coming back home. How much did she feel appreciated and yet struggle with her civic duties? And she’s not the only one. There are many artists of the Harlem Renaissance and other periods of American and world history; it’s still going on today. These are questions that many immigrants face in regards to their own homelands, not just in America. Sometimes it’s in the mind and sometimes it’s very real practical conditions that distort the mind, heart, and perceptions.
Further Reading + Video
10 Questions for 2015 Choreography Fellow Reggie Wilson by Matt Weinstock, New York City Center
Excerpt: It’ll be about citizens. There are two ongoing triggers for the new piece: one is Zora Neale Hurston. Right now it seems to be a little bit less about her work, and a little bit more about her life, and using her work and peoples’ scholarship to unpack how she came to be who she was. The other trigger is this woman Rebecca Cox Jackson, who was a black Shaker. Read the full article.