Clarice Smith Center Presents World Premiere of David Roussve/REALITY's "Saudade"

Edith Billups | 2/4/2009, 5:53 p.m.

Choreographer David Roussve notes that it was in 2004 while attending his father€s funeral that he became inspired to explore the concept of bitter sweetness. This concept would become the basis for a piece, €Saudade,€ the latest dance theatre work of David Rousseve/REALITY, which will have its world premiere at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center€s Kay Theatre, at the University of Maryland, College Park, Feb. 5 and 6 at 8 p.m.

Co-commissioned by the Center, the multimedia €Saudade€ intertwines dancing by an acclaimed international cast of seven performers, monologues written and told by Roussve that illuminate the history of African Americans in the southern U.S., and a soundscore of traditional and contemporary fado music.

Praised by the Chicago Sun Times for his €inspired, ingenious work,€ Roussve is the artistic director of the multiracial dance/theater ensemble, whose members hail from such countries as India, Burkina Faso and Indonesia. Rousseve describes Saudade, a Portuguese word, as meaning nostalgic, or longing in English.

€It is an ode to the idea of bittersweet, that single moment in which joy and sadness are experienced together,€ said Rousseve, 49. €The piece became a metaphor for contemporary life and its bombardment of all these conflicting politics and emotions.€

A native of Houston, Rousseve studied theater as a youngster. He attended Princeton for pre-law and studied experimental dance and theater while he was there.

In €Saudade,€ Rousseve performs eight monologues, and many are stories from his own experience.

€Some are fictional, but in the end, many are autobiographical,€ said the choreographer. €The characters span from a wide range of time.€

One monologue features a slave woman named Sally from the 18th century and another features a character who talks about living through Hurricane Katrina.

€The characters, through their own perspective, talk about how they are affected as African Americans. What is interesting is that we have an international cast, but through these African American characters, we are trying to find out what is common to the human experience, the human condition,€ he said.

Regarding the music, Rousseve said he had never heard of fado before. Similar to Portuguese blues, Rousseve though the style fit with his play perfectly.

€It€s very emotional, and a lot of it is about the heartbreak of love and joy. Thematically, it is so perfect for the issue we are dealing with,€ he said. €What connects the stories are the emotions. We are using Portuguese music danced by a woman from Indonesia or Africa, but there is something that is common between all of these forms.€

Over the past few years, Rousseve has collaborated with Sweet Honey in the Rock€s Ysaye Barnwell (Urban Scenes/Creole Dreams,€ €92); jazz hip-hop Grammy nominee Me€Shell N€degeOcello (€The Whispers of Angels,€ €95); and Tony-winning lighting designer Beverly Emmons (€Love Songs,€ €99).
In a free pre-performance lecture titled €The Music of Saudade€ on Thurs., Feb. 5, at 7 p.m., in the Leah M. Smith Lecture Hall (School of Music Room 2200), University of Maryland Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese Language, Professor Regina Igel will provide a brief history of fado music and discuss the specific works featured in Rousseve€s dance.

Tickets to performances of €Saudade€ are $35; $7 for full-time students. Tickets are available by visiting www.claricesmithcenter.umd.edu or calling 301-405-ARTS (2787).