The question that Reggie’s work poses is simple: Can a body? Can a body? For many traditional dance forms, what a body can and cannot do is superfluous—it is merely about what a body should do. From perfect turnouts to multiple pirouettes to jumps that seem to suspend in midair, dancers are told what they should do. Even in last year’s project with Merce Cunningham’s choreography, I felt a constant awareness of what my body should look like in motion, what the rhythms of my footsteps should sound like. Usually, the word I associate the most with dance is “should.” Not so with Reggie’s work.
Anna, one of the Fist & Heel dancers, told us that Reggie self-described (facetiously?) his work as “post-African neo-hoodoo modern dance.” Coming from a background of mostly jazz and ballet, I was flummoxed by post-African neo-hoodoo modern dance. I didn’t know what I should be paying attention to when he demonstrated the choreography. I didn’t know what my body should look like when executing the movement. I didn’t know how to approach this incredibly new movement at all. Where does one begin when one’s body is backing away, shaking its head, and saying, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t?” It was beautiful to watch, but I had no conception of how I could make my own body replicate the action.
At this point, after several weeks of rehearsal, however, I am starting to realize something. In the very beginning, a dancer always faces the question of can. Before my first ballet class, I watched the instructor with awe and asked myself, “Can I?” Before my first double pirouette, I watched the other girls complete them and asked myself, “Can I?” It is only after conquering can that a body can move onto should, which is in itself a somewhat individual construct in Reggie’s work. While many dance forms use can as a pathway to the bigger question of should, Reggie’s postmodern work urged me to slow down through the can and embrace fully the confusion and depth of wondering, “Can a body?”