It is hard to exist in the world of dance today without hearing the words Gaga (and no I don’t mean Lady Gaga). I am talking about Gaga technique created by Ohad Naharin, the former artistic director of Batsheva and their current resident choreographer. Gaga is a movement language that pushes dancers outside their limits. So what does this have to do with Reggie Wilson?
Back in the 80’s when Ohad was working in New York, Reggie was one of his dancers that performed and toured with him. When Ohad left to become the Artistic Director of Batsheva is also right about when Reggie Wilson formed Fist and Heel Performance Group. Many reviewers try to draw connections from Reggie’s choreography to Gaga technique. It seems like specifically his piece Moses(es) has garnered this consideration especially. One article written on Moses(es) drew similarity between the two through individual exploration, but not much else. I think this shows how unique Reggie is and how his work is not like anything else in concert dance right now.
If you want to learn more about Gaga, Ohad, and Reggie’s experience dancing for him I suggest watching Mr. GaGa, a dance documentary on Netflix about Ohad’s life and work. Reggie is seen in multiple talking heads discussing his thoughts on dancing for Ohad. It is interesting to hear Reggie’s take as a dancer and performer because most of his interviews and articles written about him are in regards to him as a choreographer or as an artistic director. It adds a layer to him which is great to see.
Ohad was actually teaching at the Tisch School of the Arts when Reggie was a student there. Reggie created Fist/Heel Performance group just one year after graduating with a BFA from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, in 1988. While there he was mentored and taught by Phyllis Lamhut. He says the things she taught him, he still references today. Before even reaching NYU, Reggie was performing in school plays and swing choir in Milwaukee. He first garnered the title ‘choreographer’ in eight grade when asked to help choreograph the highschool’s musical (at which point he hadn’t even taken a proper dance class). It wasn’t until his freshman year of high school when he enrolled in ballet and jazz classes. From what I saw Reggie doesn’t often talk about his life or dance from earlier on, but he does goes more in depth about all this in one specific interview you can read here.
It appears as though Reggie’s dance career could be considered as one that was on hyper-speed. From his first formal dance class his freshman year of high school, to attending the Tisch School of the Arts four years later, dancing professionally with Ohad from 1988-1990, graduating in 1988, and forming Fist/Heel Performance Group in 1989, Reggie’s dance career snowballed in the best way possible. This November Reggie is bringing the Fist and Heel Performance Group to Portland as part of our Uncaged Series. The full-evening work entitled POWER focuses on early developments in African American spirituality and reimagines the practices and movement of Black Shakers.
Individual tickets go on sale today, August, August 16th so buy them while you can and see the brilliance of Reggie Wilson in person.