Hatchery Project Artist | April 19- 26, 2015
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 joining the company as an apprentice during Wilson’s 2012 MANCC residency, followed by an 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 was 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 was made possible with major funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Collaborators in Residence: Yeman Brown, Clement Mensah [performers], Aitor Mendilibar [photographer/videographer]