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Danse Lumière Performances

Secrets on the Way

A Dance Noir created and choreographed by KATHRYN ROSZAK
Inspired by the poetry of TOMAS TRANSTRÖMER

Tomas Tranströmer

Danse Lumière presented the first full performances of Secrets on the Way (Hemligheter på vägen) on April 27 & 28, 2013 at the Osher Studio in downtown Berkeley.

Recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize, Tomas Tranströmer is a Swedish Nobel Prize-winning poet and one of the most celebrated and influential poetic figures of his generation. He was born in Stockholm in 1931 and is a psychologist by profession. He began his psychology career in the 1960's at a juvenile corrections institute in Sweden, and worked for several decades in the field. He is one of the world's most translated poets, with books appearing in over fifty languages. Tranströmer is also a highly regarded amateur pianist and entomologist.

The premiere of Secrets on the Way was performed by dancers Blythe Berg, Ramzi Jneid, Nitipat Pholchai, Lissa Resnick, and Linnea Snyderman, with readings by actor Earll Kingston. The music, a mix of contemporary and classical, included works by Schubert and Hindemith. Lighting design by G. Chris Griffin; sound design by Phil Patiris.

English translations by Robert Bly and May Swenson (poems and translations used by permission).

Tranströmer's poetry suggests movement; Kathryn Roszak's edgy, urban choreography combines with dances traveling through the numinous landscape of his poetry. Psychological, mysterious, and filled with surprising imagery, the poems describe journeys into the city and into the wild within nature and ourselves. Going through Walls, Mountains that have Windows, Violence, Blindness, and Trust are all images found in the poetry. Translating poems from one language into another is a form of detective work. Poets, detectives, and psychologists work with broken bodies and souls. The Detective/Writer searches for different parts of the puzzle -- the broken pieces that somehow make up the whole.

As one audience member wrote following the premiere, "There is a strange energy in the performance that I can't describe, but which grips you more and more -- especially in the Schubertiana climax near the end."

This work is supported in part by a grant from the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation.

The Fifth Book of Peace

Inspired by the book Of the Same Name by MAXINE HONG KINGSTON

The Fifth Book of Peace is an innovative dance-theater performance created by Kathryn Roszak, presented in Fall 2008 as the first major new work for the newly-renamed Danse Lumière company. The work is based on the extraordinary book of the same name by noted Bay Area author, activist, and National Book Award winner Maxine Hong Kingston.

Created in the midst of the recent Iraq War, the work is a poignant exploration of war and peace, drawing from the deeply personal stories of Vietnam war veterans that Ms. Kingston bears witness to in her book, as well as in the anthology "Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace," which she edited.

In both choreography and dialogue Kathryn Roszak addresses and examines social justice themes, and explores the concepts of violence and war, and their effect upon the human psyche, through the artistic fusion of dance, literature, theater and music. The Fifth Book of Peace also combines contemporary dance with martial arts.

Veterans and other survivors of war are represented, and heard by the audience, encouraging everyone to explore creating a culture of peace within themselves and the world around them. The veterans' powerful stories can help transform people's hearts and minds; as their stories are shared, the accurate transcription of what is in the heart creates community.

Initial performances of the work took place in October 2008 at Dance Mission in San Francisco, and in November 2008 at Dominican University in San Rafael.

Performers included actor Steve Ortiz; dancer David Garcia; ensemble dancers from the LINES Ballet/Dominican University BFA dance program; Wushu martial artists Ben Tang and Ryan Au; and Ms. Roszak herself, with original music performed live by Ron van Leeuwaarde and additional sound design by Phil PatirisVirginia Reed was Consulting Director.

Following the San Francisco premiere there was a post-performance talk featuring Maxine Hong Kingston and author/veteran James Janko with Ms. Roszak and company members.

Renowned activist Daniel Ellsberg (The Pentagon Papers) gave a post-performance talk at the Dominican University event.

The production was funded in part by Fleishhacker Foundation; Puffin Foundation; Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation; San Francisco Foundation (Koshland); Zellerbach Family Foundation; and Friends of Danse Lumière.

Pensive Spring - A Portrait of Emily Dickinson

Music composed by GORDON GETTY

Pensive Spring: A Portrait of Emily Dickinson features a singer, a dancer, and an actress who each portray the 19th century American poet in a series of vignettes. The music is by composer Gordon Getty, from "The White Election", his song cycle based on the poems of Emily Dickinson.

The first performance of Pensive Spring took place at the Berkeley City Club in December 1998. Other performances in the years since have included Il Teatro 450 in San Francisco (1999); the University of San Francisco (2001); Falkirk Mansion Cultural Center, San Rafael (2003); the residence of Ann and Gordon Getty (2006); Santa Sabina Center, San Rafael (2010); the Cal Performances "Fall Free For All" at Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley (2011, reviewed below); and again at the Berkeley City Club (2010 and 2011, also reviewed below).

The work takes its name from a line in Dickinson's poem "Snowdrops in Spring", a tribute to the lovely white flower that perpetually blooms in early spring, even pushing up through snow.

"Roszak translates the poetry into eloquent physical language," the Contra Costa Times observed, and "poignantly illuminates the soul of the poet." This innovative and acclaimed work offers a contemporary recreation of the mysterious Dickinson who, later in life, for reasons that remain obscure, always wore white.

Ms. Roszak selected and edited the text, woven from Dickinson's letters written over many years and many seasons, all reflecting her inner state. Roszak sees Dickinson as psychological, modern and radical in her vision of the world. She is a woman of her time and yet out of her time, so in touch with her feelings as to seem out of step with everyone else. A scientist of the soul, she approaches themes of pain and death fearlessly. Her correspondence to men and women alike is passionately rapturous. The Victorian era could have crushed her but it also made her the artist she was. In the 21st century we need this "soul of fire in a shell of pearl" more than ever.

The Songs

  • I Sing to Use the Waiting

  • There Is a Morn by Men Unseen

  • I Had a Guinea Golden

  • If She Had Been the Mistletoe

  • New Feet Within My Garden Go

  • She Bore It Till the Simple Veins

  • I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed

  • I Should Not Dare to Leave My Friend

  • The First Day's Night Had Come

  • The Soul Selects Her Own Society

  • My First Well Day, Since Many Ill

  • I Like to See It Lap the Miles

  • The Going from a World We Know

  • Beauty Crowds Me Till I Die

  • I Sing to Use the Waiting (reprise)

Kathryn Roszak in the original performance of "Pensive Spring"
at the Berkeley City Club, December 1998

Kathryn Roszak and Gordon Getty, October 2010


Choreography by KATHRYN ROSZAK
for the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge

Lissa and Eric Resnick perform a true story in "BridgeDance" 

Danse Lumière was honored to be selected as an official participant - one of 75 "Tributes" - for the Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary Festival, held at Crissy Field on May 27, 2012.

Kathryn Roszak created "BridgeDance" for the occasion, and "bridging" is the work's theme, with additional inspiration from oral histories of the bridge.

With the span as backdrop, students from our Children's Dance Program joined company dancers from Danse Lumière to perform the new work, set to a soundtrack that included classic West Coast jazz. There were also outdoor preview performances during the preceding week at Union Square Live in downtown San Francisco.

It was an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience for all involved.

Danse Lumière's Linnea Snyderman "backstage" with students from the Children's Dance Program, May 27, 2012 


Choreography by KATHRYN ROSZAK

Michael McClure

Dances that travel through the visceral, sensual, jazzy and political terrain of Michael McClure's poetry... images of social justice erupt along with intimate visions of the natural world...

Michael McClure is well-known as a key poet of San Francisco's Beat Generation. Mysteriosos uses selected poetry from McClure's book of the same name.

Mystery and metamorphosis are evoked as dancers move amongst visual artist Amy Evans McClure's horse sculpture. Featuring live music by jazz saxophonist and McClure collaborator George Brooks, the work premiered at the Jazzschool in Berkeley on March 2, 2012. Dancer and Danse Lumière guest artist Lissa Resnick joined Roszak for the premiere performance.

Kathryn Roszak wrote: "I first encountered Michael McClure when I was commissioned by the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco to create an interactive performance exploring Bodhisattvas of Compassion. The program included Maxine Hong Kingston's writing, and I selected a poem on Kwannon by McClure, which was read next to a beautiful Kwan Yin statue. Ever since, I've wanted to set dances to his visceral, muscular poems, which are filled with possibilties for movement. Nothing is what it appears in Mysteriosos... everything changes, everything morphs. Characters emerge from the poetry - the Old Woman, a Young Girl (waitress), horses and other animals. An arc appears, from youth to middle age to wisdom and old age. I am fascinated to find new ways of working with the beat synergy to create a dance-theater cabaret."

The Star Dances

Choreography by KATHRYN ROSZAK
In collaboration with astronomer BETHANY COBB, Ph.D.

Kathryn Roszak and Bethany Cobb at the Dance/Science
summer camp, July 2010

In 2009, Kathryn Roszak partnered with UC Berkeley astronomer Bethany Cobb to develop a unique presentation, The Star Dances, combining the art of dance with the science of astronomy. The work premiered in October of that year at the historic Herbst Theater in San Francisco.

The Star Dances was presented by Humanities West as part of their program "Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler: Redefining our Place in the Universe", in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Roszak's choreography, set to music that included a rare piano version of Gustav Holst's "The Planets", was interwoven with a multimedia presentation by Dr. Cobb. Ms. Roszak and Dr. Cobb also gave a preview lecture the week before at the venerable Mechanics' Institute in San Francisco.

In December 2009 The Star Dances was presented at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, expanded into an interactive program that invited the participation of families; the program was repeated in April 2010 at the Kensington Hilltop elementary school. In July 2010 Ms. Roszak and Dr. Cobb held a very successful Dance/Science summer camp that combined dance and creative movement with science-oriented crafts and experiments.

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