Having learned work by both Reggie Wilson and Akram Khan, I feel I can confidently say that they not only have different movement styles, but different approaches to thinking about movement. A different mindset, a different way of interacting with movement, a different way of treating the body. At the end of Reggie’s residency at Yale, he asked me if I felt like there was a link between his choreography and his work and the post-modern choreographers we had learned the repertoire of previously (Cunningham, Twyla Tharp). At the time I said no, that his work felt completely different.
However, once we started working with Akram Khan’s repertoire, I realized what completely different actually feels like. Akram’s work definitely is riddled with difficulties, intricacies and complexities in the execution of his work, but there was a simplicity in the approach. You were working towards something complex, but the thinking and processing of that movement is very direct and straight forward. It was a mode of rehearsal that felt very different from anything we’ve worked on previously in YDT.
Despite Reggie’s insistence in the rehearsal room that we stop thinking about the movement and just do it, the amount of thought in the doing of his work is still immense and complex. The way in which he uses different textures of movement or the way he patterns or sequences simple phrases of movement is complex, and provides a rigor in the body and the mind.
There is no doubt in my mind that Akram’s work is rigorous, but it operates within one mode of doing. There takes time to understand stylistically how his movement works, whether that be the way he uses dynamics and energy, the intricacy of the hands, or the consistent sense of circular movement. And while I can’t say it’s a rigor I mastered, it’s a rigor that is contained. The shape and the form of it is clear. It stays within one mode of thinking about movement and one mode of doing movement and it remains there.
Reggie’s work is dealing with several modes of thinking and analysis at once; but as a dancer it also deals with several modes of doing. The distinction between the movement in a single phrase of Reggie’s work isn’t just a distinction between quality or dynamics, it’s a distinction between the way you approach doing the movement. It has to be done, yes, but the way you think about doing one movement will not necessarily help you understand how to navigate the next. In Akram’s work, there is a sense that the correction for one movement can be a correction for most of the piece as well, there is an attention to detail that is unique and specific and consistent. Reggie’s attention to detail shifts from place to place depending on where he is coming from. In that sense Reggie has a different implentation of dynamic range, one that is born out of the independence of the multiple movement styles he incorporates, whereas Akram’s dynamics seem to born out of the fusion of his movement styles into a singular style.