Wilson’s interest in the arts began when he was a singer in middle school. Wilson wasn’t aware of his dance talents until he was, by chance, picked to help with the choreography of a school musical.
After high school, Wilson attended New York University where he was exposed to many different kinds of choreography. Who appealed to him? He appreciated Bob Fosse, Pina Bausch, and Bill T. Jones, among others.
Wilson visited the Dance Teen Reviewers and Critics at New York Live Arts on March 23rd, after we attended his performance “theRevisitation.” He is an entertaining guest. He made us laugh. All serious tension floated out of the room. He was very comfortable speaking with us and giving us advice on writing.
“Words are important,” he said, and not just to writers.
Even as a choreographer, Wilson needs to use good words to teach his choreography to his dancers. Whether it involves naming sections of a dance or calling out a specific order of choreography, words help the dancer to see where the choreographer is coming from. Words help the dancer to remember phrases and important qualities in the movement. “And five, six, seven, eight! Run, run, and walk. Down, up, ring around the rosy and reel in the water. Reel, reel, reel and push away that ex- girlfriend!”
Ariel Romage: What is your signature?
Reggie Wilson: Hmm … well what do you think is my signature?
Wilson agreed, but said he would rather call repetition his obsession. Not necessarily his signature.
Wilson likes to show the connection between post-modern dance and the African Diaspora. He is curious about what people see when they see black bodies perform certain techniques, and wonders if bodies are always seen as “black” in performance.
Romage: When making choreography, do you want the audience to know exactly what you’re trying to portray or do you want to leave space for interpretation?
Wilson: Well, there is always room for interpretation, especially in dance. Like, for example, in “theduet”, an audience member might say, “I see two dancers that are fighting and my parents hate each other so the dancers must be a married couple.” Or, “Oh now, they’re doing this and that, which reminds me of this.”
People can layer ideas on top of ideas. Based on what they see, everyone comes up with their own story.
As a choreographer, Wilson appreciates well- written reviews and critiques of his work. They can help him move forward, as well as get people into the theater for his shows. He feels that writing isn’t only about opinion. He wants to know why a writer likes or dislikes something. What made his dance fascinating or not to a writer?
Wilson gets frustrated with words, and frustrated that sometimes, the only thing left after his performances are the words of a critic.
I enjoyed meeting Wilson. He didn’t start dancing ballet when he was little like most dancers I come across. Like Reggie Wilson, I started dancing in middle school which has taken me to places that I have never would have imagined.