Today we’d like to introduce you to Joseph Reynolds.
Joseph, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up copying my sister’s recital routines and cheerleading practices. My mom dances when she cleans and my dad gets down in the club. I choreographed my first pieces in high school and spent whole winters in the dance studio preparing for the Winter Dance Concert in March. My high school was in Boston, so I was able to intern at the Dance Complex in Cambridge and Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn during my summers at home.
In college, I created “The Workshop”, a series of drop-in dance classes for busy students who wanted to keep dance in their lives since I was training in modern and ballet. After graduating with my Dance degree, I joined Contra Tiempo Futuro, the junior company of Contra Tiempo and performed with Viver Brasil at the Hollywood Bowl! Later on, I began training house through Open House Society and VersaStyle classes. Nothing like a Soul Source LA party or the dearly missed Open Floor Society jams!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The first half of my life was spent fighting and appeasing my strict Jamaican parents who never immediately enjoyed my love of dance. Although after years of balancing both good grades and my personal passion, I began to recognize being allowed to dance was only half the battle.
I’ve always been able to handle the spotlight, but after receiving the words I needed to begin seeing the toxicity in all of our privileges, I wanted to be able to control how I was seen in the spotlight.
My first duets were Black 1.1 and Black 1.2 with Nneka Irobunda. Black 1.1 focused on historical and contemporary imagery and movement of black bodies in response to the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” movement of 2016. In Black 1.2, I interview Nneka asking “What do you think of when you hear the word Black? How do you live your life as a Black person? How do you live your life as a Black Woman? When did you first realize you were Black? What is your favorite thing about being black?”
I needed to do these pieces to find my artistic voice after years of wonderful training but inevitable conditioning. Not just that of the body, but my mind as well. I had to work towards decolonizing my work and movement. I also realized that I wanted my voice to be heard in my performances to control the spotlight. I’d grown tired of creating pieces that wouldn’t make it into festivals because they weren’t avant-garde enough even though my work was what needed to be supported and highlighted.
My first solo piece, which seems to be like many folks first solo pieces in retrospect lol, is WeOutHere.docx. I weave together bits of my coming out letter to my parents, my “racial reawakening”, and my purpose in the middle through the theme Liminal Love. I performed during a food festival in Crenshaw at LuLu Washington/Dance Resource Center’s Dance All Day event to a majority black audience. I was elated, terrified, and hopeful because I had finally managed to be in front of the audience for whom my work was created.
Even though I was happy with the performance and its reception, the all spoken word audio format began to itch a deep spot. I began thinking of ways to incorporate live captioning into my performance, so I could utilize my spoken audio-only format while allowing for those in the Deaf community to enjoy my work.
I attended the 2018 Abilities Expo and watched “9”, Cas public’s piece focused on their dancer Cai Glover’s experience with a Cochlear Hearing Implant. I also started attending monthly Advocacy meetings at my local SCIL (Service Center for Independent Life) to gain a less voyeuristic perspective when it comes to creating art for and with disabled people.
In Black 1.3, my most recent piece, the performance aims to give the dancer and their body agency in telling a story — addressing the body of a dancer as it exists off stage and in history. I focused on the approximately equal nature of an equinox relating it to the approximate equality I experience as a black man in the U.S.
Diving into history to source the fabric for a re-stitching of what I’ve come to see as my life, while calling into the future to imagine the questions that need to be asked to help me arrive there. Black 1.3 explores and explains, revolving concepts, imagery, and meaning around themselves to deconstruct the strict notions many bring into the theater, projecting onto our work. The piece is also fully captioned and uses light scoring to make dance theater as inclusive as possible for the Deaf community. By addressing my desired spoken word format, I am able to have more dialogue with more people.”
Please tell us about JoeChoreo.
JoeChoreo houses my modeling, acting, dancing, and other artistic endeavors. Within JoeChoreo, I’ve used his professional and artistic experiences to: create my own personal approach to movement, deepen my understanding of dance’s social, educational, and performative potential, and communicate my perspective as a queer black man.
I love JoeChoreo because it held me accountable to my own artistic progression. JoeChoreo gave me a place to put my online live Yoga sessions to create community with others mentally, physically, and spiritually throughout a very tough beginning of the year. As I trained, performed, and modeled, I grew my portfolio and looked at my experiences, but now they serve as reminders of my passions I need to reignite when the time is right. I’m most thankful of my commitment to finding the work and opportunities that I am proud to add under the JoeChoreo name.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Running. Whether it was away from a belt or down the block with friends, the rush of going faster always reminded I was alive! Also hiding from my parents in the laundry hamper to try and scare them when they came home. Probably, most definitely, is having so much fun running around the lingerie racks in Macy’s as my mom tries to shop that she ends up asking the cashier “Do you want to take home a little boy?!” before we leave to go home!
- Website: JoeChoreo.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joechoreo/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JoeChoreography
- Other: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfOU6on__XQZQw_VcBq-n6g
Steve Selman, Daniel Rarela