Bittersweet - that single moment when the greatest joy and agony are experienced together is the subject of David Rousseve's new evening-length dance-theater production, Saudade. The dance unfolds through a juxtaposition, and fluid intermingling, of several core components: stories written and told by Rousseve that chronicle the specific bittersweet history of African-Americans in the Southern U.S.; a soundscore of contemporary and traditional Portuguese Fado music; andthe exquisite dancing of an international cast. 

Rousseve's stories, a mosaic of character monologues, are grounded in folklore, historical fact, and personal experience. A slave woman recounts the horrific sacrifice she endured to learn to read. A mother remembers only the little things about her battle to save her children from Hurricane Katrina and the loss of her husband. These and other stories illuminate the joys and pathos of individuals who - despite the span of time that separates them - are dealing with the same struggle to endure within a harsh everyday reality. The soundscore of Fado music projects the historical and political issues ingrained in the struggles of African-Americans onto a global terrain. Saudade is a Portuguese word that itself conjures the complex mixture of sadness, pain, nostalgia, happiness and
love, a bittersweet state-at the core of Fado.

The emotional texture of the work reverberates also through the personal experience and interpretation of a cast of international dancers. Each dancer brings to the work extensive experience exploring the complicated intersection between traditional world dance (including Bharata Natyam, Indonesian, West African) and postmodern dance. Saudade will be performed by Rousseve (who will perform the monologues) and seven dancers who include: Anjali Tata, Sri Susilowati, Marianne Kim, Nehera Kalev, Esther Baker-Tarpaga, Olivier Tarpaga, and Taisha Paggett. As Rousseve describes an early workshop: "While we bring our separate histories to the dance, we do not come as representatives of a culture, but as individuals and we are finding common ground”.

Saudade was developed in part through a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Creative Capital Fellowship.  The work received a “Bessie” (New York Dance and Performance) Award, and two LA Horton Awards.

Saudade is made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Met Life Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

photos: Jorge Vismara


Peter Melville (Set and Prop Designer) is a visual artist working in combined media production and design for performance.  His visual artwork has been exhibited and collected in: Canada, Japan, United States, and Germany. In 1980-85 he was a company member (Performer/TD/Design Associate/Film Curator) of the DIA Art Foundations Robert Whitman Theatre Project, an experimental theater group based in NYC.  Noted exhibitions and performance tours:  "Blam, Pop, Minimalism and Performance1958-64" Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC, 1984   "-60-80 attitudes/concepts/images" Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1982.  Melville has been a Resident lighting Designer for the Whitney Museum of American Arts Performance Series, and was the faculty TD at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Performing Arts Institute, 1985-2001 where he had the pleasure to work with numerous theater directors such as Liviu Ciulei, Mark Wing-Davy, Barry Edelstein, Zelda Fichhandler, Michael Mayer, Tazewell Thompson, and Robert Woodruff.  Melville's designs for dance theater include for: Doug Varone, Lance Gries, the Wooster Group, Marianne Kim, Cheng-Chieh Yu, and David Rousseve (for video).  He continues to be the Production Director & Resident Designer for Yu Dance Theater in LA.  Recent lecturing includes the Gaungzhou Art Academy and the ATV Gaungdong Performing Arts Academy in China as well as currently with UCLA's Department of Worlds Arts and Cultures, and Crossroads School.  Recent artist residencies have been with the LA Dept. of Cultural Affairs - Chesterfield Square Program, the SMARTS Program, The HeArt Project, and the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. MFA Hunter College, Advisor Robert Morris.

David Ferri (Lighting Designer) has worked with prominent choreographers such as Pina Bausch, Shen Wei, Doug Varone, Jane Comfort, Eiko and Koma, David Rousseve and Ballet Preljocaj. He has been the Production Manager for the prestigious American Dance Festival since 1996 training upcoming designers in America. Recipient of 1987-1988 BESSIE AWARD for his design of Doug Varone's "Straits", and 2000-2001 BESSIE AWARD for Sustained Achievement in Lighting Design, Mr. Ferri was also resident lighting designer and technical director at PS 122 from 1985-1991. Mr. Ferri lives in New York between his travels and projects.

Ashley Hunt (Video Designer) is a visual artist and writer who works with video, mapping and installation to engage the thought and ideas of social movements, modes of learning and public discourse. His primary work of the past eight years has been the development of The Corrections Documentary Project, which deals with the contemporary growth of prisons their growing centrality to today’s economic restructuring and politics of race. Hunt’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta, Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, as well as numerous grassroots and community based venues throughout the U.S. He is currently a fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, and lives in Los Angeles where he teaches at the University of California at Irvine.

David Karagianis (Composer, Sound Designer, and Musician) is the Music Director of Loyola Marymount University’s Department of Theater and Dance. David’s eclectic range and interests span film, dance, concert recital, theater and multi-media performance genres as well as classical, experimental, electronica, jazz, world, rock, pop and ambient stylistic boundaries. Information about recordings, projects and workshops by David may be found at

Leah Piehl (Costume Designer) has been involved in several creative collaborations with choreographers including, Colin Connor, Laurence Blake, Kristen Smiarowski, Mira Kingsley, Rebecca Pappas and Kelly Nipper. She designs costumes for the stage and screen. A few of her recent theater credits include Tartuffe at the Theater at Boston Court (Pasadena) Floyd on the Floor at Judson Memorial Church (NYC), Robots vs. Fake Robots at the Powerhouse Theater (Santa Monica), Miss Julie at the Sledgehammer Theater (San Diego), September 11 at REDCAT, Frictions Festival, Dijon and Paris National Theatre La Colline, Big Death and LIttle Death and The Road Theater (North Hollywood). Film and TV credits include BuzzKill, dir. Steven Kampmann, The Macabre World of Lavender Williams, dir. Nick Delgado, Mullercize it! (Pilot), featuring Tom Lennon and Ben Garant of Reno 911. Music Video credits include Skopik, Rocco DeLuca, Black Light Burns, and Killola. Leah has her BA in Political Economy from UC Berkeley and her MFA in costume design from CalArts. Leah teaches costume and makeup design at Fullerton College and Moorpark College.

The Company

Esther M. Baker-Tarpaga has a B.A. from Bowdoin College in French and Anthropology and an M.A. in Dance and M.F.A. in Choreography from the Department of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA.  In 2006 she was invited as a Cultural Envoy through the US State Department to teach and perform in South Africa (Heart of the Arts), Botswana (Maitisong Festival), and Burkina Faso (Dialogue De Corps Festival).  She has performed numerous times at the French Cultural Center in Dakar, Senegal and has collaborated with Senegalese dance companies Compagnie Kakat’Art, Compagnie 1ere Temps, and hip hop artist Keyti of Dakar All Stars. Her dance films “Ndox Mi/Water,” “In-Between Baobabs,” and “Malik and Sukeyna” have screened in the US and Senegal and she is co-producer of documentary short “United Nations of Hip Hop,” which was selected for AFI International Film Festival. She has performed in work by Victoria Marks, Deborah Slater, and is currently a member of David Rousseve’s company.  In 2006 she implemented and led UCLA’s first summer study abroad program for dance in Senegal at Germaine Acogny’s Ecole de Sables.  She is a recipient of a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship and co-founder of Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project, which recently returned from a performing and teaching tour in Japan and Malaysia.

Nehara Kalev is a dancer, choreographer and New York native who echoes her family’s Jewish history of strength and survival. As co-founder of Catch Me Bird Dance Theater, Nehara created reality-based performance that grapples with the lunacy of being in a partnership that existed both onstage and offstage. She has harnessed her aerial dance expertise with Airealistic and has performed featured roles while touring with the acrobatic Diavolo Dance Theater for four years. She attended the High School of Performing Arts in New York and has a B.A. from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. from UCLA. A dedicated world traveler, Nehara loves teaching her special brand of upside down performance techniques in workshops and residencies across the country and the globe.

Marianne M. Kim is an interdisciplinary artist and educator working in dance, theatre, and video art. She received her M.F.A. from U.C.L.A’s Department of World Arts and Cultures with a focus on choreography and technology in 2004. Her most recent interdisciplinary works have been presented by Collision Symposium at the University of Victoria, International Experimental Theatre Festival in Romania, DeBalie Center for Culture and Politics in Amsterdam and Kinesthetic Kino in San Francisco. As an artistic associate of Chicago performance collective, XSIGHT! (1993-2001) Marianne presented worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, Dance Center of Columbia College, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, University of Illinois Weselyn, University of Alaska in Anchorage and Fairbanks and Out North Contemporary Art House in Anchorage. Independently, Marianne has directed theatre for Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and the ARGE Kultur House in Austria. Marianne has presented her video work at festivals, galleries, and performance spaces in Portugal, Atlanta, New York City, Anchorage, Salzburg, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ontario, Cluj-Napoca and throughout the Midwest. During her time in Los Angeles (2000-2004), Marianne presented work at LACMA, REDCAT, Crazy Space Gallery, Highways Performance Space, Japan American Cultural Center, and the Electric Lodge.  She has taught classes at Northwestern University, UCLA, University of Illinois at Weselyn, and been on faculty at University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Chicago Lab School, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  She is currently an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s Interdisciplinary Arts and Performance Department.   In the past Marianne has been a guest artist for Yu Dance Theatre, Simone Forti, Joe Goode, Johannes Birringer, Richard Maxwell, Deborah Hay, and Katsura Kan. She is a recipient of fellowships from Illinois Arts Council, Jacob K. Javits Foundation, and several grants from the Chicago Artists Assistance Grants, Durfee Foundation and NEA/Dance USA to create new work. She received Chicago’s Ruth Page Award for Choreography and Performance in 1999 and was nominated for a 2002 Lester Horton Award.

Taisha Paggett is a dance artist who recently presented an evening of choreography entitled how we get by as an MFA candidate in UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures program. Previously she lived and danced in New York City and, prior to that, attended UC Santa Cruz where she studied dance and received an undergraduate degree in Art History. Her work and collaborations have been presented in several California venues including Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, Center Stage Theater in Santa Barbara, and at the San Francisco Art Institute. Taisha has also worked extensively with visual artist Ashley Hunt in collaborative video and installation work including Undeliverable Address: 54 questions that will not be answered by the White House and Engagement. She has also done freelance writing for Dance Magazine and is the co-editor of the L.A. dance journal project, itch. As a dancer, Taisha has most recently worked with David Roussève, Cheng-Chieh Yu, Victoria Marks, Rosanna Gamson, Yvonne Rainer and Cid Pearlman.

Sri Susilowati is a dancer/choreographer from Indonesia and has choreographed extensively in the U.S. and Indonesia establishing dance groups and teaching students. Sri founded and directed “Sri Dance Company,” a dance group that creates and performs contemporary works on the subjects of community, gender, and ethnicity through dance and multi-media. Sri also founded the group, “Harsanari,” (Old Javanese for “Dancing Joy”) based in San Francisco. Sri has performed as a solo dancer and with her group throughout the United States including at the Kennedy Center, the Symphony Space, Pier 59, the Palace of Fine Arts, Highways Performance Space, the Ivar Theater, the Barnsdall Theatre, the Deaf West Theatre, the Electric Lodge, and a variety of universities and other local venues. The Dance Documentation Project filmed her workshops and performances for the San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum. Sri other project includes producing the annual “Dancing in the Margins Festival,” a project consisting of community workshops and an opportunity for world dance choreographers to develop and present their contemporary work in a professional setting. She has been the recipient of many fellowships and distinctions including 2005-2006 City of Los Angeles Artist-in-Residence (AIR) and COLA grants, the Puffin Foundation grant, the James Irvine Foundation 2006 Dance: Creation to Performance grant, and the Alma Hawkins Choreographic Award. Sri received her BFA from Indonesian Institute of Arts in Yogyakarta and MFA from UCLA. Sri currently teaches at Santa Monica College.

Olivier Tarpaga is a choreographer, dancer, and djembe drummer originally from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.  From 1997-2001 he toured Africa, Europe, and America as a professional dancer with the Bourgeon du Burkina.  From 1994-2001 he trained with Salia Sanou of Companie Salia Ni Seydou.  From 1999-2002 he toured internationally as a Djembe drummer and Storyteller with Amadou Kienou’s Ensemble Foteban.  In 2000 Tarpaga co-founded CompagnieTâ, which was selected as a finalist at the fifth choreographic encounters of Africa and Indian Ocean in Madagascar.  In 2002 he moved to the USA where he co-founded BAKER &TARPAGA DANCE PROJECT. He has performed and taught dance and drumming throughout the USA, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, France, Germany, England, Wales, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Canada, French Guyana, Israel, South Africa, Botswana, Burkina Faso and Mali.  He teaches African Dance at University of California, Los Angeles and in the Fullerton and Los Angeles School Districts.

Anjali Tata is an artist engaged in the exploration of Contemporary Indian dance.  She incorporates post-modern choreographic tools and movement on core principles and techniques of Bharata Natyam, Yoga, and Modern dance.  Tata holds an  M.F.A. in Dance from UCLA’s Dept. of World Arts & Cultures and is an arts educator in the fields of Dance and Yoga as well as a free-lance writer.   Her training includes 22 years of Bharata Natyam experience under the tutelage of her mentor Viji Prakash and over 10 years training in Yoga and Modern dance. After touring with Prakash’s Shakti Dance Company across the U.S., Canada, and India from 1992-96, she has since been choreographing in both traditional and contemporary genres.  She has presented new works at many venues throughout California includingArtwallah, a forum for emerging South Asian artists in 2001, 2003, and 2004, the World Festival of Sacred Music, Highways Performance Space, Long Beach Women’s Festival, Japan America Theatre, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Thousand Oaks Civic Center, the Monterey Poetry/Dance Series, and the Hollywood Bowl.  Anjali feels blessed and inspired to be working with David Rousseve and has also worked with several other artists including Lynn Dally, Parijat Desai, Paula Present, and Nitin Sawhney.  She is a co-founder of Post Natyam Dance Collective along with Sandra Chatterjee, Shyamala Moorty, and Sangita Shreshtova.  Tata relocated from California to Kansas City in 2004.