CITIZEN is Fist and Heel’s current project. It asks the questions “what does it mean to belong” and “what does it mean to NOT WANT TO belong”. CITIZEN wrestles with the desires, re-actions, responses and relationships to and about, the very private, public/group-matter of ‘belonging to’.
Presently, this is a work for 5 performers and is being imagined as a series of solos supported with some ensemble work.
With CITIZEN, Wilson is investigating facts and realizing his own thoughts and considerations related to the complicated reasons why some artists favored American home soil (and others didn’t). Through ongoing interest in the work and life of Zora Neale Hurston, he realized that Zora was among African American artists who did NOT carve a path to Paris or Europe; she always returned home to America and lived here ‘til her death. What made her make this choice over another? He began obsessing on why she ‘stayed’ and what made her keep coming back to an America that told her, “everything you are, is exactly the opposite of what is recognized as a human being, a person, …correct, normal.”
It was during his 2014 visit to Paris this fact of Zora not migrating to Paris (or anywhere in Europe) nagged him and raised a myriad of questions: What was/is the allure of Paris; What did Black folks find there that was truly different from here (in America); How did this ‘difference’ affect them, their art and their craft; Is ‘exotique’ another name for ‘other’; What did Black folks need to be free and independent; How is a sense of belonging related to being an individual; What does it mean to ‘transition’; Immigration; Are African Americans ‘immigrants’ in the country of their birth; What is civic duty? How did African-Americans fight for the right to participate?
These questions are also being applied to research of a select list of African Americans in Paris, some of who were part of the Negro Renaissance (currently known as The Harlem Renaissance): Josephine Baker, James Reese Europe, W.E.B DuBois, Eugene Bullard, Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and Louis Armstrong. Additional points and persons-of-interest: Jean Baptiste Belley and William Henry Johnson –Senegal-born M. Belley fought for Haitian Independence from the French and William H. Johnson who was valet to Abe Lincoln but bears the U.S. government-issued headstone with the title CITIZEN; Ms. Jane Elliot’s “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” Exercise; comic and American personality Pearl Bailey; bi-racial personality and Broadway performer Carol Channing; and black Shaker Leader Rebecca Cox Jackson within a conflicted America, are among triggers serving as pivotal and grounding research elements.
Perceptions, repetitions, and multi-layering are major players in CITIZEN. The previous understanding and application of fractals in other Fist & Heel works is deepening in application in this work. The solos being created are displaying explicitly individualistic qualities as the choreographer and performer entangle and disentangle in the creative process of going after complicated, disorienting layers of belonging in relation to history, location, culture, community, race, income, opportunities and choices. CITIZEN promises to illuminate how belonging helps us to thrive, survive and live…or not.
Phase 1: Conceptualization (Following Ideas, Interests + Inquiries, Travel): JAN 2014-Premiere (2016)
Phase 2: Research + Planning (Continued Travel, Questioning, Development): MAY 2014-JUN 2015'
Phase 3: Choreographic Development + Production* (Rehearsal):FEB 2015-2016
Phase 4: Presentation (Premieres, Performances + Touring):FALL 2016-2018