David Roussève / REALITY



current works

past works


reviews / features


booking /contact



Halfway to Dawn

Written/choreographed/directed by David Roussève and performed by the wildly diverse nine-member company REALITY, Halfway to Dawn redefines ‘biography’ as the intersection of fact, conjecture, comment, abstraction, and fantasy; as it seeks to uncover the complicated emotional ‘truths’ of gay, African American jazz composer Billy Strayhorn’s life while creating a dialogue on urgent social ‘truths’ of our own. Though instrumental to the creation of the most important body of work in American music history, Strayhorn (1915-1967) remains largely unknown.  As Duke Ellington’s main arranger/writing partner, he wrote/co-wrote signatures like “A Train”, “Satin Doll”, and “Lush Life”.  But gay, out, and living in Harlem in the 1940’s-60’s, Strayhorn chose to lead a remarkably private life, allowing Ellington to take the spotlight and much of the credit for their joint oeuvre.

Issues of fame, privacy, and creative authorship have never been more resonant than now, when popular culture has redefined fame - not art - as the goal itself, when social media over-sharing has obliterated privacy, and whendigital platforms havefurther blurred the line between composing and arranging.  Committed civil rights worker, Strayhorn is a supreme example of artist as activist.  Informed by these undercurrents, Halfway to Dawn creates an abstract portrait by layering video-projected text conveying the biographical facts of Strayhorn’s life, projected abstract video art exploring the emotional undercurrents of his journey, and expressionistic physical theater expanding the political urgency of his narrative into our own lives.  Moveable screens are surfaces for the projection of historical footage that grounds the work in the Strayhorn era, even while lighting design moves the piece fluidly between past, present, and fantasy.

The core of Halfway is Strayhorn’s music as interpreted through a dynamic dance vocabulary melding jazz, modern/postmodern, and social dance that is new to Roussève’s choreography.  A score including recordings from the ‘40-‘50s of Strayhorn songs allows the famously private artist to emerge and “speak for himself” through his music.  The songs are immersed within a larger sound design that - like the video element - references historical material, but ultimately creates a contemporary, abstract, and wholly original digital tapestry. This is Roussève’s third project with Cari Ann Shim Sham* (video), Chris Kuhl (lighting), and Leah Piehl (costumes); and his second with Lucy Burns (dramaturgy), and d. Sabela Grimes (sound design).

Halfway to Dawn will have its world premiere at REDCAT in Los Angeles in October 2018 prior to performances at the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in December 2018.

Halfway to Dawn 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.

Halfway to Dawn is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by REDCAT in partnership with ARTPower at UC San Diego, Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and NPN.  (For more information: www.npnweb.org.)

Halfway to Dawn was created in part during a residency at the Pillow Lab at Jacob’s Pillow Dance.

Commissioned by:

ArtPower at UC San Diego
Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans
Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Pittsburgh
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
NC State LIVE, Raleigh
REDCAT, Los Angeles

Booking contact:

Sophie Myrtil-McCourty
Lotus Arts Management


photo: Rose Eichbaum



The Company



Community Engagament