Vinson Fraley's enviable digital footprint mostly consists of videos and photos of his dancing. He moves in a way that can be best described as technological; he was programmed to be a dancer. Most creatives treat their social media like portfolios, so that’s no surprise, but otherwise, he doesn’t seem to share much of himself or his life online. I eventually realized that he was probably a Virgo (he is).
The 25-year-old dancer and singer has an infectious, earnest presence and a stellar resume — he's been dancing his entire life. He studied at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and has already collaborated with the likes of serpentwithfeet and contemporary artist Carrie Mae Weems. When we meet, he is hard at work on a highly classified project with another industry heavyweight. Though its a daunting amount of work, Vinson is focused on getting things done with ease. “I approach my work with a sense of playfulness, allowing myself to know that it’s not that deep or serious, but at the same time treating it like it is," he says. "When I get really into something, a large part of me is a perfectionist when trying to achieve a feeling or sensation, and I know that reaching for it is something I could work on endlessly. I have a lot of passion — it’s kind of a cliché, but I do have a lot of passion to create and to perform.”
As we try to adjust to our current reality, dancing and creating music can feel purposeless in the face of a pandemic, and our conversation gets esoteric fairly quickly. We agree that it’s imperative for us to find purpose by continuing to create, to dance, and sing: “Those are things that can be made and produced and shared without disrupting the environment," Vinson says. "Things that can be done without harm, that can be done in isolation.”
Creating an art is an extractive practice — you have to peel parts of yourself and your experiences away in order to produce anything, and Vinson wants to contradict himself. “I think trying to be more precise with language, with expression, especially right now, is super important,” he says. “Then there's also a part of me that's like, 'things are much bigger than me, I don't matter. It doesn't really matter.' But how you share and give and create energy without disrupting a space is really important. Especially in these times, because a lot of what we're feeling is very incommunicable. So as a dancer, you kind of bring language, which is incommunicable and articulate movement.”
Vinson grew up in Atlanta, where he attended a performing arts middle school and high school. He initially pursued vocal music and drama, but when given the choice between a normal gym class or an intro to dance, he decided on the latter, resulting in a major shift in focus. “I think a part of me really wanted to dance," he says. "I think everything is always dancing.”
“I think movement is necessary” Vinson continues, “Finding ways to move within restriction is something that I think is important, like song and dance. For some people, that is their travel. That is their escape.” He pauses, then adds "Animals migrate, they move. All living things do. Even just atoms, molecules, space, and air and elements — these things I find really interesting, because they're always in movement. I think movement is necessary.”
That said, Vinson is also now working on an EP. Though it's still being made, the tracks I was able to hear from are soothing, genre-defying, and beautiful. The songs are well-balanced, neither heavily relying on his voice nor hiding behind sounds and production. He’s very adamant about telling me the tracks are “nowhere near done.” I asked if he preferred dancing to singing, and he was quick to correct me; there isn't really a difference. “Just operating the throat, moving the throat is dancing,” he quips.
The multi-hyphenate is in the business of communicating both verbally and non-verbally, which requires technique. But it also means that he’s never not producing: “I feel like, in many ways, I'm always performing," he reflects. "Even in moments where I truly feel stripped, there's always some bit of something that is put on. I’m trying to get to a place of not being aware of speaking.”
With as much as he is working, and as hard as he is working, it's easy to become mechanical, but he adamantly doesn’t want to be. “Precision, for me, is different from perfection or working through life as a machine," he says. "Because we're not, we aren't machines. This world is not a machine.” For Vinson, precision is when the soul and the mind meet to become something divine. “It has to be just fucking honest, and it needs to be clear,” he adds.
To Vinson, dancing defies our ideas of travel and space. Time is on a loop, and in his mind, freedom is “not being tethered to time, to space, or to your body. It’s about being able to transcend all of that."
Fashion Credits (from left to right) Look 1 - Hood, vest, pants, shoes: ALYX, Look 2 - Necklace, top, pants, shoes: RICK OWENS, Look 3 - Top, pants: Y PROJECT, Shoes: G.H. BASS , Look 4 - Top: HANES, Pants, shoes: SR STUDIO, Look 5 - Top: EYTYS, Pants: JACQUEMUS, Shoes: UGG, Look 6 - Top: JACQUEMUS, Pants: GMBH, Shoes: R13 // Look 1 - Top, pants: YOHJI YAMAMOTO, Sandals: RICK OWENS, Look 2 - Pants: DRIES VAN NOTEN, Look 3 - T-shirt: HANES, Pants, sneakers: ACNE STUDIOS, Look 4 - Jacket, top pants, shoes: SIES MARJAN, Look 5 - Hat, blazer, pants: R13, Shoes: CONVERSE, Look 6 - Shirt, pants: BOTTER, Shoes: LANVIN