If I’ve learned one thing from our two-part work—first with Reggie Wilson, then with Akram Khan—it’s that movement with energy, movement with body, it breathes. I’ve done plenty of choreography that is simply a series of steps strung together, often topped with a Vaseline-induced smile. Such movement only has the energy you bring to it—hence the attempts at a cheek-achingly wide smile. Watching—and dancing—this sort of movement becomes tiresome however. It all looks the same. It all feels the same. There’s nothing full about it. Not so for Reggie Wilson and Akram Khan’s choreography. Their movement, though different in many respects, is similar in this most fundamental way: it has life. It has rises and falls, stillness, breath.
Working with Reggie was a full-person experience. Reggie wants his dancers to be smart. He wants and needs you to think. But of course, he cares equally about the body. KNOW WHERE YOUR PELVIS IS, up is up, down is down, know your real weight—plain and simple. All together, you end up thinking with mind and body. Reggie’s work calls for your full presence. If you fail to be present, the spark will not light.
Doing Akram Khan’s work is a more physical and also visceral experience. His work requires a full-bodied and full energy engagement at all times. The dynamics, the rounded circles connecting one step to another, require that you never lag. And of course, the choreography is theatrical. It incites emotion, both in watching and in dancing it. You must give yourself to the dance, or it’s not worth it. I have never felt more exhausted.
Originally, I wanted to draw some sort of distinction between Reggie and Akram’s work: about where the energy resides or why it feels so different to do one work versus the other. But then I realized, there’s something more important in the similarity. In doing both Reggie’s work and Akram’s work I felt the rises and the falls. I felt myself fall in line with the breath of the movement. This did not happen—and could not happen—immediately. It happened only when I somehow, FINALLY understood the work, its curves, its pauses, its rushes and its rests. This, to me, is what good choreography is: a work that breathes, a work that lets me breathe with it. I was lucky enough this semester to learn from two choreographers, who in their own way, have mastered this art of breathing life into a string of movements.