Commissioned by Cleveland’s mixed-ability company Dancing Wheels, for Daring to be Dumbo David Roussève reconceived the original Dumbo as a dialogue on difference and teen bullying that is set in a contemporary Jr. High School. The evening-length work (conceived, written, and choreographed by Roussève) combines both new music and rearrangements of songs from the original score as recorded for the performance by the Chagrin Falls Studio Orchestra (original music and arrangements by its director Stephen Eva). The work also featured giant puppets, elaborate costuming, and video projections. Calling the piece a “poetic lesson in self esteem”, Cleveland’s Plain Dealer also described the work as “An engaging spin on the tale… poignant…poetic…”
In a highly competitive city wide grant process Dancing Wheels received a Cuyahoga County Arts and Cultures prestigious “Creative Culture” Grant of $130,421 to create a film using Daring to be Dumbo as a springboard to discuss the issues of teen bullying that reside at the core of the new reconception. The resulting Al Roker-narrated film Daring to be Dumbo was shown on Cleveland’s WKYC TV 3 (PBS) on April 5, 2014. The film features an interview with Rousseve on his own experience with teen bullying, and documents the process of creating the live theater piece including excerpts of the performance.