Dance is ephemeral, each performance unique. Some dances are fairly set, at least for a generation or so, in their choreography; others were conceived as containers for ideas that could take different forms. Reggie Wilson’s Moses(es) falls into the latter category. It is a piece his Fist and Heel Performance Group has performed for more than two years in different places and under different conditions, and while the proscenium version remains the same, in some versions the emphasis is on responding to site. In other words, it is a vital work, open to growth and the process of change.
Over the two weeks Reggie spent at Lynden, he often said that choreography was made of “space, time and movement.” Move dance outdoors, as we have been doing with Alverno Presents for five years, and weather becomes an essential fourth ingredient. Yesterday, as we began the performance of Reggie’s latest reimagining of Moses(es) with clouds gathering, my attention was pulled away from the bodies moving in space to the state of the sky, the radar, and ultimately the logistics of moving a large crowd across the grounds and into the house as the storm arrived.
It was when we were “rained in” that dance’s fifth ingredient became so obvious: people. A delicate contract unites the mind and spirit of the choreographer, the dancing bodies of the performers, and the audience. Over the course of the next hour or two I was able to see that contract stretch and bend–and produce yet another version of Moses(es). The dedication of the community performers and their command of their material, the extraordinary generosity and adaptability of the Fist and Heel dancers, the willingness of the audience to continue and to participate, and most of all everyone’s trust in Reggie to lead them through produced a performance experience that was as unexpected–and ephemeral–as it was satisfying.
This morning, as I revisited the many versions of Moses(es) that I had seen in rehearsal, it was difficult for me not to feel that I had lost the opportunity to share some of the most revelatory moments in Wilson’s staging of Moses(es) to the elements. One of my greatest pleasures in working with artists comes when a new way to see Lynden–its spaces, places and sculptures–emerges. On Friday night, when we were wrapping up hours and hours of rehearsal with a final run through of the circulating version of the dance, I saw how boldly Reggie had reimagined not just the dance, but the place, and the ways that a group of dancers coming together for the first time–Fist and Heel Performance Group, the Jazzy Jewels from the Milwaukee County Department on Aging, the UWM Dance students and alumni, the Jehovah praise dancers from Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, Lynden’s day campers, and the independent dancers who generously gave us two weeks of their time–could make a work of enormous visual and emotional power, in which the stitches and seams of the making were both artfully hidden and joyfully celebrated.
I wanted to share that Moses(es) with everyone, to share that moment of rediscovering Lynden. But I also embrace dance in all its ephemerality. The way that space, time, movement, weather and people came together yesterday on the grounds and in the house–and again out on the grounds, where we performed the finale as the clouds parted–is what draws me back to dance and the inimitable experience it creates.
We will be posting plenty of pictures and some video in the near future, and we will continue the conversation with a Postscript event on November 7.
With gratitude to all,
Lynden Sculpture Garden
2145 W. Brown Deer Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53217