In collaboration with Jacob’s Pillow, the award-winning choreographer, who is praised for how “his sprawling movement pieces fold history into the present” (The New York Times), is in residence at the Pillow Lab and Hancock Shaker Village this winter/spring, in preparation for the world premiere of POWER at Jacob’s Pillow in July. A special, site-specific experience titled They stood shaking, while others began to shout will be presented at Hancock Shaker Village in the 1826 Round Stone Barn on July 6. Tickets go on sale April 1.
Wilson, who has long been fascinated with what Black Shaker worship might have looked like, often explores in his work the importance of houses of worship in the world of dance. After spending time at Hancock Shaker Village and the Pillow Lab, he is creating an intentionally-crafted work that will premiere July 10-14 at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. The site-based event at Hancock Shaker Village on Saturday, July 6, will feature the dancers in a roving performance that weaves the historic buildings and landscape into his narrative.
Fist and Heel Performance Group is a Brooklyn-based dance performance group created by Reggie Wilson in 1989. The group blends contemporary dance with African traditions in what the founder and choreographer terms “Post-African Neo Hoodoo Modern dance.” An inaugural Doris Duke artist, Wilson is a graduate of New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. He has studied composition and been mentored by Phyllis Lamhut; and performed and toured with Ohad Naharin before founding Fist and Heel. He has lectured, taught and conducted extended workshops and community projects throughout the US, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean. His work explores connections between secular and spiritual cultures of the African diaspora in the Americas. Audiences are drawn to his unique synergy of formal rigor, playfulness and depth.
Wilson has long been fascinated by the Shakers, especially Black Shakers, in particular Rebecca Cox Jackson, a black woman born in 1795 who founded a Shaker community in Philadelphia. Progressive thinkers (the Shakers believed in racial and gender equality centuries before the world caught up, and in a manifesto in 1885 chided the government for not allowing women to vote), the Shakers believed that all were equal, and allowed anyone to join their communities, provided they turned over their property and material wealth once they committed to communal life. The Shakers welcomed African American members into their communities as early as the late 1700s, assisted fugitive slaves along the Underground Railroad, and would often purchase the freedom of slaves in southern communities.
This dance project will launch Hancock Shaker Village as an unconventional historic place to experience yet another art form – dance – and serve as a reminder that dance was an intense physical expression of Shaker spirituality. The Shakers wrote over 10,000 songs (more than all the ballads and spirituals known to have originated in America), and danced to most of them –Shaker villages from Maine to Kentucky resounded with passionate, beautiful dancing on a daily basis. (Indeed, they are called Shakers because of their ecstatic dancing).
While in residence, Reggie Wilson and his team have been researching and inspired by the Hancock Shaker Village archives, which include textiles (1,200 examples of Shaker costume, domestic textiles, and specialty products made and used by the Shakers or sold to outsiders and other Shaker communities), commercial graphics (1,300 artifacts, including labeled seed packages and boxes), and archival materials (2,000 imprints, 10,000 photographs, as well as journals, letters and manuscripts).
Presented in collaboration with Jacob’s Pillow, and made possible by the generous support of
Joan & Jim Hunter, Julie Mehretu, Dr. Bruce & Reba Evenchik, Robin Lazarow & Jeanne Kangas.