David Rousseve, choreographer/performer/director/writer and Vice Chair, World Arts and Cultures at UCLA

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David Rousseve

BrotherMen: They Were and Are Our Prophets and Griots, by Demetria Royals

According to the American census, David Roussève and I are a part of the national cultural phenomenon known as the "Baby Boomers."

But within our communities, we were to be forever marked as "The Brown vs. Board of Education babies." We were recipients of that landmark Supreme Court decision which would have a lasting impact on the choices we would have, and under what conditions would we have to choose once again to heed the call of "Keep on children, don't you get weary."

We would also live through the southern Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers, and others who were, as James Baldwin so bitterly commented, "murdered with the consent of the governed."

We would enter the elite halls of academia where our parents had only been allowed to clean, and our assignment was to prove that we were there, not because of "good will" but "brain power."

We would also discover a new kind of racism, more subtle in its presentation, yet more deadly in its ability to harm; racism such as the assumption by faculty and staff as to our "preparedness" to even be there; and, more devastating, seeing reflected back to us such "facts" as our communities are ghettos, our institutions substandard and the African continent presented as the " Dark Continent."

Our battle would be to change the very definition of "scholarship" and, even more importantly, to continue to learn these skills without internalizing the dominant culture by negating our own.

Yet, we also had our hearts and minds open to new possibilities. David Roussève, using, in the words of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "the master's tools to dismantle the master's house," continued to develop his work and created a multi-racial dance theater group that would show the impact of slavery on the Black family. He would give honor to parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and others who defined "extended family" and showed how our community even dealt with our damaged souls.

And finally, he would go back to our cultural markings and use the tools of the griot, now in the Americas known as the "storyteller," to tell the memories our forebears were told to forget if they, and we, were to survive in this country.

In this current climate where the call for multicultural education is needed in the academy, in this society and in the world, David's starting point is to bring together all the complexities of his unique human condition, as an artist, an educator and a man.


Artist Biography

David Roussève's work and philosophy flows from the tradition of what the late James Baldwin refers to as a "Black Westerner."

Employing the voice and influence of the storytelling technique of his grandmother and reaching back into the Western canon of such classical composers as Wagner and Puccini, he brilliantly tells, through the use of movement, text and music, the love story of two slaves, John and Sarah, and their dramatic attempts at freedom in his work, "Love Songs."

Performed with Reality, his multi-racial dance/theater company of seven performers, "Love Songs" was the third Roussève work commissioned and presented at the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Roussève's company has toured internationally and garnered such reviews as "...a call for grace, a cry to reunite with some large universal framework... Inspired, ingenious work" (Chicago Sun Times).

A Magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University and currently a professor in UCLA's World Arts and Cultures department, Mr. Roussève is the recipient of many grants and fellowships, and has created new work for the Houston Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble and the Atlanta Ballet, among others.

In BrotherMen, director Demetria Royals re-stages for film excerpts of this performance, along with interviews with Mr. Roussève.


Selected Works

"Love Songs"
Conceived, written and choreographed by David Roussève
Performed by Charmaine Warren, Steven Washington, Kyle Sheldon, Julie Tolentino Wood & Terry Hollis.
Sets and puppets designed by Debby Lee Cohen

Wagner: Orchestral Music
"Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde
erformed by the Berliner Philarmoniker; conductor, Herbert von Karajan (EMI-Capitol Music)

Related Links

Rena Shagan Associates Inc: Bio
CalArts/Alpert Awards: Winner, 1996
Dance Insider: Review


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