stills: Robbie Shaw

David Roussève / REALITY

 

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Bittersweet (2005)

 

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Bittersweet is the first work for the camera directed by award-winning choreographer David Roussève. It explores the relationships of three women of color to their husbands, lovers, and to one another in an alternately lyrical and violent look at race and gender politics. Bittersweet is a bold fusion of narrative text, abstract movement, and visual imagery that probes the meaning of the word bittersweet as a moment when the greatest of both joy and agony are experienced together. The 15 minute work juxtaposes the haunting voice of Nina Simone, a searing narrative, and a thrilling movement vocabulary to create a potent cauldron of emotion.

The narrative follows the stories of the three women in 1940s America. The women’s stories—as grounded in murder and mystery as they are in the comfort of a tender embrace—are told through a freewheeling structure that dips through full-throttle dance and visually intriguing character-driven scenes. The women’s seemingly unrelated tales intersect near the end of the film, as each story reaches a narrative climax that is as joyous as it is tragic. The film’s real power is in how the narrative allows Roussève to create a mesh of story, dance, music, and gesture that is itself a dialogue on the human condition.