David Roussève is Artistic Director of David Roussève/REALITY, a dance/theater company that has toured throughout the U.S., Europe, and South America. For REALITY Roussève has written, directed, and choreographed 13 full evening works since 1988, including three commissions for the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. REALITY’s most recent work- 2014’s Stardust- is a coming of age story for the twitter generation that follows the plight of a gay African American teen as told through dance, music, and a series of projected text messages. Stardust was commissioned by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (University of Maryland), Peak Performances (Montclair State University), and the Krannert Center for the Arts (University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana) and has toured throughout the U.S. including to the venerable Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
Roussève has created 11 commissions for other companies including Ballet Hispanico (one in collaboration with Eddie Palmieri), Dancing Wheels, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater, Atlanta Ballet (with a live performance by the 100-member Morehouse College Glee Club), Houston Ballet, Dance Alloy (in collaboration with Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock), and Ilkhom Theater Company of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. David has created three short films including 2012’s Two Seconds After Laughter for which he served as director, writer, and co-choreographer. Shot in Java Indonesia, Two Seconds has screened at festivals in the U.S., India, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Egypt, Italy, Spain, Indonesia, Brazil, Portugal, and Canada. The film has won or been a finalist for 13 festival awards including five for best short.
In addition to a Guggenheim Fellowship Roussève’s awards include a “Bessie” (N.Y. Dance and Performance Award), three LA Horton Awards, the Cal Arts/Alpert Award in Dance, 7 consecutive Fellowships from the NEA, and First Place Screen Choreography award at the IMZ International Dance Film Festival. As a writer David Roussève was twice a Fellow in the Sundance Feature Film Development programs Screenwriter’s Lab. His writing was also published in Bantam Press’ Rants and Raves from Today’s Top Performance Artists, and Rutledge Press’ Envisioning dance on Film. Among others David has served on the faculty at Princeton University, Columbia College, and Randolph Macon College. In 1996 he joined UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance where he is Professor of Choreography and former Department Chair. In July 2014 David began serving as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for the School of the Arts and Architecture.
Artist Questionnaire for Double Exposure
How long have you been making your own work as a choreographer? How long have you been making work on the West Coast?
I have been choreographing since 1988. I have been on the west coast since 1996, although my company remained in NYC until 2001 (and I was bi-coastal during these initial years of living on the west coast). Since 2001 my artistic home has been fully centered on the west coast.
What does it mean to you to be a ‘West Coast choreographer’, if anything?
The west coast has a sense of freedom. I feel freedom to move in any artistic direction and to have the work engage fully with the broader world around me. The ‘rules’ have not been set so we don’t waste time trying to ‘break the rules’ but rather acknowledge there are no rules to limit us.
Who generally performs your work – yourself, your company, a pick-up company, other companies, etc.? How collaboratively do you work with your dancers?
With my own company (David Roussève/REALITY) I work project-to-project but with many of the same dancers. I also create commissions for other companies.
Describe your aesthetic or choreographic style.
I create dance/theater that combines the narrative power of text, the emotional resonance of metaphoric movement, and the limitless possibilities of surreal imagery into one whole.
Who would you describe as your most important influences in the dance field? How would you define your artistic lineage, if any?
Pina Bausch has been a huge inspiration if not influence.
Where do you start with a commission like this – the relationship, an image, a piece of music, a movement phrase, etc.?
For this piece I began with a desire to create a work centering around the current social movement towards dialogue around race and class. With that as jumping off point, I next worked with movement imagery.
Have you ever previously created a work this short? How does the duration impact your decisions/process, if at all?
No, and this was a challenge. I usually create evening length work. The challenge for me was to still have a full structure- beginning, middle, end- within such a short time. Rather like creating a three act film but of a 4 minute duration.
Do you often create duets? How much are they a part of your larger body of work?
Within my larger works there are many duets as smaller episodes of bigger dances, but those usually involve partnering. I appreciated the challenge of creating a duet that consisted of phrase material only.
How does the duet you’ve created for Double Exposure dialogue with your other work?
My broader work often tries to create conversation around larger social issues of the moment while also exploring kinetically. I appreciated bringing the mission of social dialogue to Double Exposure while also trying to challenge the dancers physically.