David Roussève / REALITY
Love Songs (1998)
Love Songs is David Rousseve’s exploration of timeless notions of love – a theatrical portrayal of the term “bittersweet” that juxtaposes the unabashed romanticism and triumph of love stories from differing eras and cultures with the harshness of everyday reality. It is written, directed and choreographed by Rousseve, with set design by Debby Lee Cohen, and lighting design by Beverly Emmons. The spine of the work is a series of film-like, surreal images developed in tight collaboration with Cohen and Emmons. Together they create a surreal landscape of a once-glorious grand ballroom, a cobweb-covered terrain where memories meet mythology and ancestors guide dreams.
Love Songs represented a new direction for David Rousseve/REALITY in structure, style, and vocabulary. In a radical departure for the company, the music for Love Songs will be a collection of classical soprano arias from Italian and German opera. It is a highly visual work that celebrates the universal humanity between such disparate elements as the stories of enslaved Africans and arias by Puccini. Abstract imagery combines with non-linear fragments of text, expressionistic movement, and sound to represent “the deeper terrain of the heart” where issues of love, loss, heartache, and joy are exploded before the audience. The focus of the work will shift from contemporary urban landscapes to the cotton fields of the Old South. Love Songs’s fusion of the swooping passion of Wagner, the dramatic poignancy of enslaved Africans and the surreal world created by the collaborators in combination with the immediacy of its themes results in a new form of expressionistic dance theater. Ultimately, it is a dialogue on hope that centers on the loss of – and the quest to return to – love, compassion, and therefore spirituality to contemporary urban society.
There is one “speaker” in the work, performed by Rousseve, who will intersperse fragments of narrative throughout the work. While the text consists of stories of characters from disparate worlds who are united in the refuge they find in romantic and spiritual notion of compassion, the main narrative will concern the love story of two African slaves and their dramatic attempts at freedom. The text is not the backbone of the work but provides a universal, easily accessible realm to ground the surreal imagery of the work and keep its relevance to diverse audiences evident.
Love Songs is performed by REALITY and a culturally diverse chorus of 10-20 people drawn from the local communities in which it is performed. The chorus continues Rousseve’s effort to involve performers and non-performers from diverse communities in the alternative arts through direct participation in the creative process. This artistic mission was begun with great success in Rousseve’s last two major works, Urban Scenes/Creole Dreams and The Whispers of Angels, both of which incorporated community members in their performance. In Love Songs, the chorus will augment the visual imagery through gestural movement.
photos: Lois Greenfield