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Moving bodies: Speaking bodies

Published Project Note ( Reggie

Project Note: Reggie
Moving bodies: Speaking bodies
by Maria Urrutia

Reggie Wilson is a Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia Artist/Thinker. Project Notes document and articulate Reggie's process and engagement with Philadelphia as he develops new work that will be presented here in April 2016.

Maria Urrutia is one of a group of artists working with Reggie Wilson as a part of Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia. Here, she shares her lens into the process, moving bodies as speaking bodies.


Tap the chest with a closed fist. Tap.
Look. Swivel…left/right 
Who’s calling…
Look over your shoulder. 

When entering into a room unsure of what to expect, and knowing some of the performers intimately (while others only by name and reputation) the point of entry can be:

Tap. Tap
Intimidating. Exciting. Energizing.

We all enter the space and look around us, which leads to asking polite-impolite questions. These questions can provide a frame for what thoughts, concerns, and inhibitions the individual is carrying with them on that day, in that moment. We converse in a manner that invites further conversation about dance, and the project. What is Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia going to be about? Philadelphians? Philadelphia dance? Art? Race? What? We theorize and discuss with no conclusions and many conversations that open the doors to a closer inclining of understanding. Then the predominate question or thinking bubbles to the surface, Why me? Why them? Why us? in a room together?  And then we discover in these moments of conversation that Donna Faye Burchfield is the link and through line to our ever expanding artistic endeavors.

As our conversation continues with Reggie Wilson on the day of our first rehearsal, which is spent in conversation, research is presented to us about artists in and from Philadelphia. We see images both inspiring, transformational and unidentifiable (could this have really been taken in Philadelphia?). This conversation pulls us from our comfort zone and pushes everyone to think and speak beyond self and move into the larger context of Philadelphia with its mixed politics in both dance, and society. In these five hours our only movement is that of our vocal cords that carry thoughts and opinions. The rehearsal is brought to a close through the teaching and learning of a ring shout. This begins to strengthen the bridge that began to build itself from the moment we stepped into the space. Yet we still leave wondering and questioning, where is the “dance” inside our bodies and with each other for Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia?


And then under the direction of Reggie Wilson our bodies begin to move together, and express through the standard technical languaging of dance—tendú, plÍe, battement. A common lingua franca that looks and feels different on each body, but none the less carries a series of unifying moments, statements and deep history. 


Ah, it is in the body that we find ourselves in deepest conversation. In our most vulnerable moments where we cannot hide from what we are attempting to say in words, but can only successfully express in movement. We all begin to blend our individual expression and morph the lingua franca of technique to suit our needs of what we wish to share, teach, and then re-translate into our own bodies even further.


And thus we are able to move into richer and deeper territory that begins to provoke a raw, visceral response to this calling of movement.  In these moments of threaded body motions the response turns into a conjuring.  A guided conjuring by Reggie Wilson whose keen listening and seeing prowess presents us with questions, directs us from our own verbal statements, and then leads us down a path together. 
A path that leads us back to the continual building and strengthening of our bridge through word and dance.

Tap. Tap. 

And so we wonder, are we Re-Imagining, Re-Building, Re-Remembering our personal vision of Philadelphia through the layered and complex physical expression that is shared through the moving body. 


This is just the beginning of a pathway that I look forward to continuing on with all the thinkers and movers that have shared a space with me thus far in Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia with Reggie Wilson of Fist and Heel. 


Cuban Born, maria urrutia is an artist that investigates the lived experience of migration. She is also a professor at West Chester University in the Department of Theatre and Dance.

La Puerta (The Door)

concept, score, editing by: maria urrutia

poem by: Nicolas Guillen

La Puerta (The Door)

by: maria urrutia

The hot midday sun glistens overhead as I stand on the sandy shore of an unknown beach. The ocean moves and calls from behind me, and the waves crash into my feet, creating circular paths that force a slow sinking of my body into the sand. As I sink deeper into the murky texture, trapped by its forming bond of water and earth, I look straight ahead at a door in the distance.

The door is large, even at a distance, and dark with deep carvings that resemble fine lace. Fine, delicate lace, that only a practiced hand can weave together and translate onto the rough surface of the wood. And when the sun catches the surface of the door it appears to be transparent, but unwilling to reveal what lies beyond.

Then, as the sun takes a rest behind a large cloud, and the sound of congas begin. Looking behind me, there is nothing in the sparkling water. I stare into its depth until the music becomes stronger. The polyrhythmic sounds of the congas are driving the tempo of the ocean. The waves begin to crash quickly, as if trying to trap me deeper within the sand. And so using the music, to find my internal rhythm for escape, I begin to move my body and extract myself.

Once released, I begin running in long strides similar to a gazelle running away from a predator, leaping inches off the ground to gain greater distance. I extend each leg to its fullest before taking the next stride, trying to collapse the distance between the door and myself. The distance seemed short, and yet, attempting to cross it, my breath escapes me in short gasps. And over the short gasps I hear the congas louder than they were when I stood at ocean’s edge.

I place my hand on the door and feel it vibrate on my palm, due to the power of the congas. I wait with my hand on the door, for it is unclear to me what I should do; so I wait in front of the door, with the ocean behind me, the door vibrating against my hand and the congas playing their rich song.