David Roussève/REALITY
One day some breakthrough string theory of the heart is sure to explain why beauty and damnation can be perceived at the same moment, why grief and joy can hit you at once. Until then, David Rousseve’s dance-theater… offers a succinct and lyrical look at how the highs and lows of life collide.
— Sarah Kaufman, The Washington Post
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ABOUT... David Roussève

The struggles of Black Americans-oppression and abuse, poverty and neglect, AIDS and alienation register in the body of this dancer-choreographer, whose death-haunted imagination is drawn to the polarity and paradox of bondage and antic freedom… Dante’s collective notion of ‘our life’ is particularly apt as Roussève moves from the personal to the historical and on to the universal.
— Charles McNulty, The Los Angeles Times

Choreographer/writer/director/filmmaker David Roussève is a magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University and a Guggenheim Fellow. He has written, directed, and choreographed 14 full evening works for David Roussève/REALITY including three commissions for the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. “Halfway to Dawn”, Roussève’s most recent work for REALITY explores the life and music of jazz composer Billy Strayhorn.  The evening-length work premiered in October 2018 at REDCAT in Los Angeles prior to national touring that includes REALITY’s return to the Next Wave Festival.

Roussève’s commissions for other companies include Ballet Hispanico (in collaboration with salsa great Eddie Palmieri), Dancing Wheels (a reimagining of “Dumbo” set amongst high school bullying), Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater, Atlanta Ballet (with a live performance by the 100-member Morehouse College Glee Club), Houston Ballet (danced to a live playing of “Appalachian Spring” and set in a Houston High School during 1970’s desegregation), Dance Alloy (in collaboration with Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock), and Ilkhom Theater Company of Tashkent, Uzbekistan where Roussève spent six weeks creating an evening-length work surrounding the homoerotic art of Russian painter Usto Mumin. 

In 2017 David choreographed Kurt Weil’s “Lost in the Stars”- a musical based on Athol Fugard’s “Cry the Beloved Country”- for director Anne Bogart/SITI company and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. In 2016 David created “Enough?”, a commission for San Francisco’s RAWDance, that asks whether dance can even begin to address social issues like Black Lives Matter.  In 2018 “Enough?” was set on Lula Washington Dance Theater and performed at LA’s Ford Theater.   

As a filmmaker, David has created three short films including his most recent, Two Seconds After Laughter for which he served as director, writer, and choreographer. Shot in Java, Two Seconds is an original intersection of documentary, narrative short, dance-for-camera, and surreal fantasy. The film has screened at over 40 film festivals in 12 countries and won or was a finalist for 13 festival awards including four for best short. David was twice a fellow in the Sundance Feature Film Development program’s Screenwriter’s Lab and is the recipient of First Place Screen Choreography at the prestigious IMZ International Dance Film Festival. Roussève recently completed Twit, a feature screenplay based on his dance/theater work Stardust.  In 2017, Twit was a finalist in two “Best Screenplay” categories at the Nashville Film Festival and a semi-finalist for the Los Angeles Outfest Screenwriter’s Lab. In 2014 his screenplay adaptation of his dance/theater work Urban Scenes/Creole Dreams was a finalist for “Best Historical Screenplay” and a semifinalist for “Best Dramatic Screenplay” in the Feature Film Screenplay competition at the 2014 Nashville Film Festival.  

Roussève’s writing has been published in collections by Bantam Press’ and Rutledge Press. His awards include a “Bessie” (N.Y. Dance and Performance Award), three LA Horton Awards, the Cal Arts/Alpert Award in Dance, seven consecutive NEA Fellowships, the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Association of Black Princeton Alumni, two Irvine Fellowships in Dance, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Creative Capital Fellowship.

Among others David has served on the faculty of Princeton University, Columbia College summer program, and Randolph Macon College.  In 1996 he joined UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance where he is Distinguished Professor of Choreography and former Department Chair.  For the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture he has served as Associate Dean (2014-15), Acting Dean (2015), and Interim Dean (2015-17).

photo: Yi-Chun Wu

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Founded in 1988, David Roussève/REALITY creates evening-length expressionistic dance/theater works that combine the accessibility, grit and passion of African American traditional and pop cultures with the challenging compositional structures of avant-garde dance and theater to explore socially-charged, immensely relevant, and often spiritual themes.  Steeped in the power of storytelling and moving freely between wild humor and harsh reality, the work of REALITY braids words, movement, and elaborate visual imagery into a compositional framework that is ‘reinvented’ to meet the demands of each piece.  

Roussève writes: “My work for REALITY addresses a myriad of social issues from AIDS, to racism, to sexism, to homophobia, to transnationalism but does so within an avant-garde context. And as a gay citizen of color who grew up at the apex of the civil rights movement, above all else my work hopes to create an empathetic conversation that transcends the boundaries of difference to communicate on the level of the heart.”   

For the Los Angeles performances of the evening length Saudade REALITY received the LA Horton Award for “Best Company Performance of 2009”. The Los Angeles Times called the company’s performances of the evening-length Stardust “One of the Best Dance Events of 2014.”

REALITY has performed throughout the U.S., Europe, and South America in venues including among many others, three engagements at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, Lincoln Center, Jacob’s Pillow, Cal Performances’ Zellerbach Hall, UCLA Live’s Royce Hall, The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Peak Performances, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, the Dance Center at Columbia College, On the Boards, Diverseworks, Yerba Buena Center, ASU’s Gammage Hall, Walker Art Center, LA Mama, PS 122, the Kitchen, Redcat, Highways, Houston’s Wortham Center, the Internationales Sommer Theater Festival in Hamburg, London’s South Bank Center and Dance Umbrella, Birmingham Repertory; Manchester’s Green Room, Paris’ American Center; Lyon’s Biennale de la Danse; and in Brazil in Rio, Sao Paolo, and Bahia.

Building an informed and involved public audience for contemporary performance is central to REALITY and the company has an extraordinary breadth and depth of experience in planning and conducting educational and engagement activities with communities including women, at-risk youth, African American, and people with HIV/AIDS.

photo: Rose Eichenbaum

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Touring History

(Partial list, 1996-present)


American Center  |  Paris, France
Birmingham Repertory Theatre  |  Birmingham, England
Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival  |  Brooklyn, NY
Cal Performances, Zellerbach Hall  |  Berkeley, CA
Carlton Festival  |  Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Cal State Long Beach  |  Long Beach, CA
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Univ. of Maryland  |  College Park, MD
Contact Theatre  |  Manchester, England
Contemporary Dance Theater  |  Cincinnati, OH
Dance Center of Columbia College  |  Chicago, IL
Dance Kaleidoscope  |  Los Angeles, CA
Dance Umbrella  |  London, England
Danspace Project, St. Mark’s Church  |  New York, NY
Festival Biennale de la Danse  |  Lyon, France
Gammage Hall, Arizona State  |  Tempe, AZ
Getty Center  |  Los Angeles, CA
Green Room  |  Manchester, England
Highways Performance Space  |  Los Angeles, CA
Internationales Sommer Theater Festival  |  Hamburg, Germany
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival  |  Becket, MA
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Univ. of IL  |  Urbana, IL
LaMaMa Experimental Theatre Club  |  New York, NY
McCarter Theatre Center  |  Princeton, NJ
Meany Hall for the Performing Arts  |  Seattle, WA
Mercado Cultural Festival  |  Bahia, Brazil
Miami Dade Community College  |  Miami, FL
NC State LIVE  |  Raleigh, NC
Newcastle Playhouse  |  Newcastle, England
Nia African/Caribbean Center  |  Manchester, England
On the Boards  |  Seattle, WA
Peak Performances, Montclair State University  |  Montclair, NJ
Performing Arts Chicago  |  Chicago, IL
Performing Arts Society, San Francisco  |  San Francisco, CA
Performance Space 122  |  New York, NY
REDCAT  |  Los Angeles, CA
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts  |  Scottsdale, AZ
Serious Fun Festival, Lincoln Center  |  New York, NY
Southbank Centre, Queen Elizabeth Hall  |  London, England
The Kitchen  |  New York, NY
UA Presents, University of Arizona  |  Tucson, AZ
UC Riverside Presents  |  Riverside, CA
UCLA Live, Royce Hall  |  Los Angeles, CA
University of Pennsylvania  |  State College, PA
UT Austin, Performing Arts Center  |  Austin, TX
Walker Art Center  |  Minneapolis, MN
Williams Center for the Arts - Lafayette College  |  Easton, PA
Wortham Center, Performing Arts Society  |  Houston, TX
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts  |  San Francisco, CA

photo: Yi-Chun Wu

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