Rouss?ve’s “Love Songs” unites themes of love and oppression

Love is the threshold all souls cross. It permeates the mind and becomes the body. Love never dies and passion only grows.

David Rouss?ve brings these passions to life in “Love Songs,” a production that will be presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society at GW’s Lisner Auditorium this weekend.

Rouss?ve transcends time and captures the essence of the love between two African slaves. During a panel discussion about compassion in urban life, Rouss?ve explained the production also acknowledges “a lack of love in modern society and the decay and violence that it causes.”

The piece juxtaposes the traditional ideas of “high art” and “low art” through the combination of soprano arias, primarily Puccini and Wagner, and “storytelling (that will) be down-home black, nitty-gritty and removed from the operatic world,” Rouss?ve said.

The image of the operatic sphere does not bring to mind the suffering of African slaves, but Rouss?ve’s desire to combine the two brings a heightened dynamic to the piece. The zeal of Puccini’s arias intertwined with the movement of the dancers intensifies the underlying premise of the production – the absolute magnificence of love.

In exploring the depth of the characters, Rouss?ve elaborated on the narrative in an interview with Washington Performing Arts Society dance writer Suzanne Carbonneau.

“The libretto contains quite a complex narrative. The main story concerns John and Sarah, two African slaves from the 1800s, and their love story,” he said. “There is a narrator who tells the story of nitty-gritty, violent love, as they fight the master and try to love each other in a world that won’t allow them to be together – which clearly has parallels to today’s world.

“This story is juxtaposed against Italian and German arias, and the love stories from Triton or Lohengrin. And there’s a second type of narrative as well. The unconventional love stories of five or so subcharacters from contemporary urban America also slide in.”

Rouss?ve and his company REALITY, established in 1988, focus on illuminating aspects of African-American culture on the stage through postmodern dance and performance art. REALITY won first prize for film choreography at Germany’s IMZ International Film Festival and performs internationally.

Rouss?ve realized the importance of self-expression through movement and the arts while studying at Princeton University where he graduated magna cum laude. At Princeton, Rouss?ve aspired to be a lawyer, however, he realized he “wanted to do something for the oppressed.”

His dedication to the oppressed shines in the charismatic piece “Love Songs.” During the panel discussion, Rouss?ve stressed the importance of arts in society, addressing the extinction of both the arts and compassion in the urban realm.

“We take the audience to a place that they have never been before, an ancestral plane,” Rouss?ve said. “Our greatest contribution to society is the feeling of oneness. What is universal in human plight when all are different? Art releases us to recognize the oneness. Recognize the oneness, recognize the spirit. Arts have lost some of their mission, and we want to communicate on a plane of heart.”

The intensely balanced nature of Rouss?ve, which he attributes to yoga, is an apparent aspect in his creative career. “Love Songs” gives to society what Rouss?ve says it as lacking. His inspiration, which pervades “Love Songs,” signifies to the world that love does not stop, the songs simply get better.

“Love Songs” will be performed at Lisner Auditorium Friday through Sunday.

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