“The Tie-Tongued Goat and the Lightning Bug Who Tried to Put Her Foot Down!”—presented by Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group at Danspace Project in April—might be this season’s most mind-twisting concert title. Nevertheless, it pulls me into a familiar Afro-folkish space. That’s typical Wilson, making works at once blatant and subtle, substantial and mystical, as expressive as the drums slave masters forbade captured Africans to play. The new Big BRICK—a man’s piece included Wilson’s vocalists (as handy with a Caribbean rhythm as with the sounds of frogs and crickets by a pond) and four smashing male dancers. Most of its movements were abstract, ungainly, aggressive, and noisy. Some were representational, intimate, or rendered with breathtaking finesse. The program reprised Rise, Sally Rise (three resilient women) and the captivating talk-demo INTRODUCTION, in which Wilson shows how Spiritual Baptists trance-travel to India or Congo or visit Ezekiel in the Valley of the Dry Bones.
A triptych with lengthy intermissions, Regina Nejman’s Maria Vai com as Outras (Cunningham Studio, April) seemed as huge as her native Brazil. Africa pulsed in the music and in Nejman’s poetic weaving of capoeira into her rambunctious choreography, its confident, handsome design aided by the magic of Severn Clay’s lights (including flashlights glowing in the dark like, yes, lightning bugs). Like Wilson, Nejman wants movements to boom, to splash, to spotlight dancers’ presence and weight. Who’s the heedless Maria of the title? Someone was always banging on the backboard or yelling for her. But perhaps she was right there in the giggly, miniskirted girls, suddenly free of their high heels, flipping cartwheels and wrestling space.