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Questions of Practice: Choreographer Reggie Wilson on the “Cultural Retentions” of Sacred Spaces

“There’s so much that comes out of the church…ethnically or culturally,” says choreographer Reggie Wilson. He talked with Pew Fellow Yolanda Wisher(2015) about his performance series Grounds That Shout! (And Others Merely Shaking), explaining how the project considers the cultural traditions and memories held in sacred spaces, particularly African American churches, and how they’re able to be “mined and excavated.” In this excerpt from their conversation, Wilson describes how he worked with Philadelphia-based choreographers to develop site-specific works along the city’s Lombard Street corridor—host to a unique density of historic churches—while investigating the artists’ own backgrounds and identities.

Reggie Wilson is the artistic director of Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group, where he presents his unique blend of African and post-modern dance styles. In collaboration with Partners for Sacred Places and Philadelphia Contemporary, Wilson created Grounds That Shout! (And Others Merely Shaking), a series of performances exploring relationships among religion, movement, race, and the body, with a focus on the African American religious experience and the specific context of Philadelphia’s historic sacred spaces.