Mind, Body & Foot – Footwork in Photos

Dance is the music of the body. In anticipation of Wills Glasspiegel film screening series at Norient, we asked him to show us some of his collages and images of the Chicago-based clubmusic and dance culture scene footwork. He provided us with his commentary for these. Wills co-founded the Shangaan Electro project in South Africa, and has been documenting the work of the Chicago footwork community in Chicago (Wills' hometown) since 2010.

(1): This is a recent photograph by dancer Sterling «Steelo» Loftong from The Era. That's me in the center with my foot raised, Jamal «Litebulb» Oliver to my right and Manny «Chief Manny» to my left. I've been working as an advisor and creative director to The Era for the last few years. This past summer, The Era evolved footwork music into a new lyrical formula for their mixtape In the Wurkz FM.

(2): A collage of footwork originator RP Boo in 2015, now on display in the Chicago gallery show, In the Circle. This was inspired by the concept of «knowledge of the body» – the idea that dancers shed wisdom with their moves, like leaves from a tree. I asked RP if he would come up with a title for the image. He called it Knowledge of the Traveling Vessel.

(3): Cover art for RP Boo's album Fingers, Bankpads & Shoeprints on Planet Mu. Inspired by various textiles, we used RP's dancing feet to bring movement, texture and depth to the still image on the sleeve of his record.

(4): A print of The Era, covered in shards of broken glass. I was imagining the dancers kicking through a frame, shattering the screens that bind them.

(5): A photo collage for DJ Diamond's album, Footwork or Die. Inspired by stop motion photography, the dancer's figure repeats frame by frame, as if ascending over the expressway, like a stairway to heaven.

(6): Layered images to capture motions across time and surfaces. This is Crystal «Queen Crystal» James, one of the pioneering women from different generations of footworkers with whom I've been privileged to work.

(7): A pattern developed in 2016 with The Era Footwork Crew, thinking of an old photography contact sheet as a textile. I'm interested to think about how frame rates are visual rhythms, different ways of seeing and recording dance.

(8): Sterling «Steelo» Lofton, one of the core dancers in The Era Footwork Crew. I've been filming with Steelo since 2010, and he remains a close friend and collaborator in East Chicago.

(9): RP Boo, in one of my first dance graphics using images of footwork. Chicago's The South Side Weekly recently featured this image in a special edition dedicated to leading Chicago music groups and ideas.

(10): Wide angle, black and white photograph of Steelo on his birthday, taken near Lake Michigan on the South Side of Chicago.

Published on January 13, 2017

Last updated on April 05, 2020


Filmmaker and scholar Wills Glasspiegel has been documenting the work of the Chicago footwork community since 2010. He works in visual, audio and graphic media, publishing across online, radio, TV, newspaper, museum, gallery and other platforms to local, regional, national and international audiences. His range and reach are extensive – from the filming of Chicago’s famed Bud Billiken Parade (the largest African American parade in the U.S.), to National Public Radio (NPR) programming and music. Glasspiegel is currently writing about footwork as a PhD student in African American Studies and American Studies at Yale. In addition to his scholarship and documentary film practice, Wills’ photographs and collages can be found throughout the album art of footwork artists including RP Boo, Traxman, DJ Clent and other Chicago producers.
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