I had the pleasure of watching David Rousseve and his multicultural cast of performers this weekend at Danspace Project. Their performance of Saudade was a multicultural crash course in postmodern dance, Indonesian dance, West African dance, Indian Kathak, storytelling, and visual imagery. The cast is entirely made up of former graduate students from UCLA’s department of World Arts & Cultures (my alma mater – but thats a different story). David Rousseve himself is on faculty in the Department.
The performance starts with Rousseve addressing the audience in a casual manner that makes one wonder “When does the performance start?”
The performers are full of individual flavor and energy that is distinct and unique to one another. They seem to feed of each other. There are very little moments of unison that when synchronized movement happens, it feels like slivers of a communal experience.
It was refreshing to see performers not only use their their body to convey messages but use their breath, voice, and each other. The performers would manipulate each others’ movement to convey strong messages of vulnerability, persuasion, peer pressure, and sometimes comical relief. There was a moment when Indonesian performer, Sri Susilowati went over to David Rousseve and taunted him to eat a hot chilli pepper. She then manipulated his mouth by moving his lips up and down like a fish to make him “happy”.
There were silly or ridiculous moments throughout the piece such as scooching on the floor with arms stretched out. Each performer joined in and it became a long chain of scooching with arms stretched out which was highly entertaining to watch grown adults do this. At the end of the chain each performer slowly left until there was only one person. Nehara Kalev quietly said “help” in a soft voice, no one came to help her get up off the ground.
The entire piece was rich with imagery. A slave, an ill man, happy memories, difficult/painful memories, and an acceptance of life’s rollercoaster journey. Pillars are placed in a diagonal to show the milestones of a life journey while Rousseve is “walking” along the diagonal.
I think it is fitting that Rousseve ends the piece with a heartfelt dance solo and monologue “I am all those things dead or alive.” The audience is left thinking, despite what the world throws at us we can overcome anything and everything.
For a preview video please visit: http://www.davidrousseve.com/video_saudade1.html