Pious project procures prize

By Alexandra Kukulka

Young children who come from Catholic families often attend Catechism, a class where they learn about the Bible and the important figures in it. It can be difficult to remember every detail, but revisiting it is a way to do so. For Columbia students, getting creative and artistic is another way to keep from forgetting.

In January, the Dance Center received a 2012 Joyce Award of $50,000 to commission choreographer Reggie Wilson to create a dance theater project titled “(project) Moseses Project.” This is the second time the Dance Center is being honored with the recognition and it is the only dance organization to receive two grants in the award’s

10-year history.

“The Joyce Awards are grants that are [given] to performing arts organizations in the Great Lakes region to enable them to commission new works from artists of color,” said Phillip Reynolds, executive director of the Dance Center. “Reggie Wilson is a very accomplished, highly acclaimed African-American choreographer based in New York.”

With “(project) Moseses Project,” Wilson will explore the mythical, biblical and historic references of Moses. According to Reynolds, after many conversations about the project, Wilson stated that his inspiration for the piece was the Zora Neale Hurston novel “Moses, Man of the Mountain,” which tells the story of Moses in a Southern folk vernacular.

“[The book] got [Wilson] thinking about the character of Moses as a prophet, a soldier, a priest, a husband, a man and a leader,” Reynolds said. “[Wilson] decided that he wanted to investigate that more deeply and make a contemporary dance work about that.”

The various ways Moses’ story has been interpreted across many different faith-based groups also inspired the project, Reynolds added. The choreographer is researching how this story has moved, changed and adapted throughout African and Middle Eastern religions.

Wilson could not be reached to comment.

The commission for the project will be divided into three parts, Reynolds said. The first is direct commission support that goes directly to Wilson to pay for his dancers, rehearsal space and anything else he needs.

The second part is to host time for research, and the last is to allow Wilson to return to Chicago and support a community engagement and choreographic

development residency.

“(project) Moseses Project” will premiere either in spring 2013 or fall 2014, Reynolds said. The project will also be presented during the Dance Center’s 2013–2014 season, he added.

The Joyce Award not only helps Wilson but also positively reflects Columbia’s image, according to Eric Winston, vice president of Institutional Advancement.

“Whenever a unit at the college receives an award of this type, especially for commissioning a particular work, it is important because it means the foundation thinks highly of our Dance Center and its abilities to put on these types of shows,” Winston said.

According to Reynolds, Wilson already has a relationship with the Dance Center, as this is not his first time coming to the college. In 2003, Wilson had a three-week residency at Columbia.

Three years later, Wilson returned for another teaching residency. During this time, he came up with a new work titled “The Good Dance,” which started out as a research project about social dance forms in Chicago’s African-American community. His research consisted of going to dance clubs and observing and participating in the dances, according to Reynolds.

“Just last spring, the Dance Center actually presented that piece, ‘The Good Dance,’ on our stage,” he said. “Reggie’s company was in residence for one week, teaching, performing and working in various community-based cross campus settings.”

With the Joyce Award, Wilson was able to secure other grants for his project, Reynolds said. Because of all the grants and awards, Wilson’s project is starting to

come together.

“I think it has the potential to be a pretty important, pretty significant project,” Reynolds said. “We are really proud and honored to be a part of its development and to be able to support Reggie and his creative process with this work.”