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

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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 had 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. Additional funding provided by Investing in Artists grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation, the University of CA Institute for Research in the Arts, and UCLA Faculty Research Grants Program.

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:

Halfway to Dawn was created in part during a development residency at the Pillow Lab at Jacob’s Pillow Dance, technical residencies at NC State LIVE, REDCAT and Kaufman Hall UCLA and a video art residency at NYU Tisch Dance.

photos: Rose Eichenbaum


(Dramaturg) L. MSP Burns’s writings on the racial politics of performance, on the performance of race, about the Philippines and its elsewheres are published in several journals including The Dance Research Journal, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, The Asian American Literary Review, and The Writing Instructor. Burns’s monograph, Puro Arte: Filipinos on the Stages of Empire (Asian American Studies Outstanding Book Award in Cultural Studies 2014), is published by NYU Press. As a dramaturg, Burns has collaborated with notable artists such as David Roussève, R. Zamora Linmark, and TeAda Productions. Burns is currently at work on Qnoum Kaun Khmer/I am Khmer, a musical/movement performance with mixed race Cambodian singer/songwriter/dancer Tiffany Lytle. Among Burns’s writing projects is Personating Robots, Impersonating Humans, a book on the racialization and a robot race. IG: @resistancecompanions.

d. Sabela grimes (sound design/additional music), 2017 County of Los Angeles Performing Arts Fellow and 2014 United States Artists Rockefeller Fellow, is a trans-media storyteller, sonic ARKivist, movement composer cultivating a devoted interest in Afrobiquitous life practices.  Sabela has conceived, written, scored, choreographed and produced several dance theater works including BulletProof Deli, plus Philly XPWorld War WhatEver, and 40 Acres & A Microchip: Salvation or Servitude from his EXPERIMENT EARTH sound-movement triptych. Recent creative projects include, ELECTROGYNOUS (2017) and Dark Matter Messages (2018). ELECTROGYNOUS is a dance theater experience which articulates that Black gender qualities are infinite, multi-dimensional and distinct manifestations of wombniversal consciousness.  Dark Matter Messages is a collection of live poetry, video projections and music interwoven with improvisational movement meditations that realize AfroFuturism as a means to play within the nowness of impending futures. Moved by how Octavia E. Butler invents interrelated notions of humanness in her Parable Series, Dark Matter Messages dreams Butler’s unfinished manuscript, Parable of the Trickster, into a live performance experience. On faculty at USC’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, he continues to cultivate, Funkamental MediKinetics, a movement system he created that focuses on the methodical dance training and community building elements evident in Hip Hop, Black vernacular and Street dance forms. Sabela loves pancakes, declarative realness and his kinfolk.

Christopher Kuhl (lighting) is a lighting and scenic designer for new performance, theatre, dance and opera. Recent work includes: Stardust (David Roussève); Inflatable Trio (Lionel Popkin); PANG! (Dan Froot); Home (BAM); The Parable of the Sower (The Public Theatre); Dog Days (Los Angeles Opera); The Object Lesson (BAM, Edinburgh Festival, Sydney Festival); The Source (San Francisco Opera, REDCAT, BAM); The Institute of Memory (The Public Theater, T:BA Festival); Straight White Men (Young Jean Lee’s Theatre Company, The Public Theatre, Kaai Theater, Centre Pompidou), The Elephant Room (St. Ann’s Warehouse); ABACUS (BAM, Sundance Film Festival, EMPAC). He has received two Bessie Awards, two Ovation awards and a Sherwood, Drammy, and Horton award. He is originally from New Mexico and a graduate of CalArts. 

Leah Piehl (costume design). This is Leah’s third collaboration with David Roussève, having created costumes for Stardust (2014) and Saudade (2009). Recent work includes: Romeo and Juliette (Oregon Shakespeare festival), Underneath The Lintel (Geffen Playhouse), Once, The Light in the Piazza, Mr. Wolf, The Motherf**ker with the Hat (South Coast Rep), Race, Twist Your Dickens (Kirk Douglas/Center Theater Group), The Steward of Christendom (Mark Taper Forum/Center Theatre Group); The Most Deserving (Denver Center Theater); Intimate Apparel, Pygmalion, The Heiress (Pasadena Playhouse); Arcadia, The Doctor’s Dilemma and The Eccentricities of a Nightingale (A Noise Within); Paradise Lost (Intiman Theatre); Bars and Measures, Futura, The Pain and the Itch, Tartuffe (The Theatre @ Boston Court); Hedda Gabbler, (Antaeus), and Full Still Hungry (Ford Amphitheater). She designed the feature films All Stars and Buzzkill. Her work has been featured at MOMA, Art Basel Miami and 2010 Whitney Biennial. Piehl has a BA from UC Berkeley and her MFA in costume design from CalArts.

Cari Ann Shim Sham* (video artist) is a wild artist who floats images and reflects light between lala land and gotham. She is attracted to things that sparkle, is an edible mushroom hunter, a collector of antique doorknobs and a lover of champagne. Shimmers* was the first video artist to redesign the set/sound and video art for Rauschenberg's Shiner for Set & Reset by Trisha Brown at NYU Tisch Dance where she acts as Associate Arts Professor of Dance & Technology.  Her live work and video art has shown at Jacob's Pillow, PS 21, Peak Performances, the Joyce Soho, Dixon Place, Human Resources LA with supporting technical residencies at Jacob’s Pillow, The Krannert Center, Clarice Smith Art Center, Danspace in NYC, Dance Place, DC and REDCAT. Her film work is screened regularly at festivals around the world, awards include Best VR, NYC Indie Film Fest for “The Parksville Murders”, Best Director, First Glance Film Festival, Best Short Doc from St. Louis & Oxford Film Festivals for her film SAND, Best Experimental Short, New Orleans Film Festival for Two Seconds After Laughter directed by David Roussève.

Katelan Braymer (Technical Direction/Tour Management) is a Lighting Designer and Technical Director for Theatre, Dance and Opera. Recent Designs: You In Midair (Danna Schaeffer),Underneath, Silent, Forgotten, KissA Taste of Honey, The Hairy Ape (Odyssey Theatre), MEAT (Emma Zakes Green), TIM (Brandon Baruch), Jocasta Project (Ghost Road), Free Outgoing (East West Players), K-A-D-VER (LAPP), ROSEWOOD (Michaela Taylor), Berlin Diary, Psychic Utopia (Hand2Mouth Theatre), Excerpts (Samantha Goodman), and Bi, Lydia, El Payaso (Milagro).  TD on Tour: Stardust (David Rousseve), Inflatable Trio, Ruth Doesn't Live Here Anymore (Lionel Popkin), PANG! (Dan Froot), Object Lesson (Geoffe Sobelle), and Half Life (Cloud Eye Control).  Selected Venues: Jacobs Pillow, Kirk Douglas Theatre, 59E59, MCA Chicago, On the Boards, SFMoMA, and Bootleg Theater.  Katelan is the Director of Production and Lighting for the upcoming Live Arts Exchange Festival (LAX). Katelan has been a Lighting Assistant at the LA Opera since 2011.

The Company

Bernard Brown, Lester Horton Award and Westfield Emerging Artist Award recipient, has performed with David Rousseve/REALITY, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Doug Elkins Dance Company, Shapiro and Smith Dance, and was a founding member of TU Dance. He was invited to perform with Mikhail Baryshnikov in Robert Wilson’s “Letter to a Man” with choreography by Lucinda Childs. He has had the pleasure of working with Donald McKayle, Rennie Harris, Rudy Perez, Louis Johnson, Ann Carlson and Tamica Washington-Miller. Brown received his MFA in Choreography from UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance and his BFA from SUNY Purchase. Brown's choreography has been presented at Royce Hall, REDCAT, ODC Theater, Highways Performance Space, University of Chicago, Southern Methodist University, and has choreographed Scott Joplin's opera, "Treemonisha" for Skylark Opera. Bernard Brown is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Sacramento State University and a Certified Dunham Technique Instructor candidate. The LA Times has called him "...the incomparable Bernard Brown..."

Raymond Ejiofor, a Gates Millennium Fellow, earned a Masters of Public Health Policy from USC and his B.S. in Decision Science from Carnegie Mellon University. He began his training under Judith Rhodes Calgaro in Arlington, VA and the Dance Theater of Harlem. Ejiofor has danced and created works with Daniel Ezralow, Ryan Heffington, Aszure Barton, Lula Washington, Bryan Arias, Danielle Agami, Sidra Bell, Kyle Abraham and Robert Battle. Ejiofor currently collaborates with various companies including Ezralow Dance, Ate9 Dance Company, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre, Post:Ballet and David Roussève/REALITY. Some of his credits include the 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards, MTV VMAs, Audi, Toshiba, Hermès,Samsung, Apple, Beijing Dance Festival, Springboard Danse Montreal, Israeli Opera House, and Lincoln Center: David H. Koch Theater. He has performed with artists such as Sia, Katy Perry, Pharrell, 30 Seconds to Mars, Little Boots, Fitz and the Tantrums, and Daft Punk. |

Dezaré Foster is native to Cleveland, OH where she began her dance studies at Newton D. Baker School of the Arts and Cleveland School of the Arts, before joining Cleveland Contemporary Dance Theatre.  CCDT made a guest appearance in “Wild Party”, which led her to becoming a Musical Theatre Choreographer.  In 2007, Dezaré joined The Dancing Wheels Company, performing and touring for over 7 years in collaboration with various choreographers. She has also performed in Dianne McIntyre’s “Why I had to Dance”; Cleveland Cavaliers’ Scream Team; and multiple years at Cleveland Public Theatre’s “Pandemonium”. In 2015, Dezaré moved to Ga’aton, Israel for the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s MASA Program. After returning home, she choreographed, “Labyrinth: A Tribute” on the Dancing Wheels Company and performed in Northwest Dance Project’s LAUNCH Program in Portland, OR. Dezaré is starting her 3rd Season as a Company Member with David Rousseve/REALITY in Los Angeles, CA. 

Jasmine Jawato Born and raised in El Segundo, CA, Jasmine Jawato studied dance at The Studio Art of Dance in her hometown before receiving her undergraduate degree from the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at UCLA. Jawato has performed both nationally and abroad for Michel Kouakou, David Roussève, and Kevin Williamson and continues to teach dance and yoga in El Segundo. She is currently pursuing her multiple subject teaching credential, in hopes to integrate her performing arts education into the classroom curriculum. Jawato is excited to be dancing in her second piece for Roussève and with this wonderful cast.

Kevin Le is native of Los Angeles and graduate of UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. He began his dance training at the age of twelve under Jessie Riley’s WESTSIDE Dance Project. There he studied and performed with choreographers Jessie Riley, Peter Chu, and Sonya Tayeh. During his undergraduate studies at UCLA, he had the privilege of performing with David Roussève/REALITY in venues throughout the US that include Jacob’s Pillow, The Krannert Center, and REDCAT. Since 2013, he has been touring with Kevin Williamson’s The Lost Boys and Trophy – performing in Beijing, San Francisco, Austin, and New York City. Currently, Kevin is a dance instructor and choreographer working in the South Bay of Los Angeles.

Julio Medina is an artist from Los Angeles. His work draws from various movement styles such as breaking, Latin social dances, and modern dance, engaging mediums such as movement, film, and text. Medina studied hip-hop on the concert stage and earned his MFA at UCLA’s Department of World Arts & Cultures/Dance. Beforehand, Medina completed his B.A. in Dance and Movement Studies at Emory University as a Quest Bridge Scholar. While there, he was a member of StaibDance Company until 2013. In 2009, Medina founded TrickaNomeTry (TNT) Dance Crew, a hip-hop crew that continues to perform in the Atlanta community. Julio is delighted to be an Assistant Professor of Dance at California State University, Long Beach where he teaches hip-hop and modern dance.

Samantha Mohr, native to Southern California, is a body-based artist, choreographer and certified yoga instructor. When in Los Angeles, she collaborated as a performer with David Roussève, Laurel Jenkins, Jay Carlon, Rebecca Bruno, Nina Waisman and Flora Wiegmann | LEI , No)One. Art House, Lionel Popkin, Julien Prévieux, Victoria Marks, Elizabeth Leister, Maria Garcia and Alexx Shilling. Currently based in New York, she was honored to join Elkhanah Pulitzer in her new production of Bernstein's MASS with Maestro Gustavo Dudamel at Walt Disney Concert Hall and with Maestro Louis Langrée for Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. Samantha has also performed and presented shared works at REDCAT, the Annenberg Community Beach House, Highways Performance Space, LACE Gallery, the Los Angeles Municipal Gallery, Hammer Museum, Honor Fraser Gallery, Pieter Performance Space and The Women’s Center for Creative Work. She holds a BA in World Arts and Cultures/Dance from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Leanne Iacovetta Poirier, originally from Columbus, Ohio, moved to Los Angeles in 2008 to attend UCLA, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with B.A. degrees in World Arts and Cultures/Dance and Communications. Upon graduation, Poirier was invited to join David Roussève/REALITY and toured the states with Stardust (2014). Besides dancing professionally, Poirier works actively in arts administration, assisting select artists, non-profit organizations and dance companies, including David Roussève/REALITY, with administrative needs. She also served as Program Director for The Flourish Foundation for three years. Poirier has taught dance for 10 years and is the Co-Director of the UCLA Dance/Performing Arts Summer Institute. She currently resides in Charlotte, NC with her husband. |

Kevin Williamson is an LA-based movement artist and Assistant Professor of Dance at Scripps College. A Lester Horton Award recipient, Bates Educators Fellow, and Center Theatre Group Sherwood Award Finalist, Williamson’s dance works have been presented at venues including DanspaceProject, REDCAT’s New Original Works Festival, Dixon Place, CounterPulse, LACMA, Austin’s OUTsider Festival, and the Beijing Dance Festival. Williamson has created original works for LA Contemporary Dance Company and Loyola Marymount University and choreographed opera/theatre projects for The Juilliard School, Yale Repertory Theater, Opera UCLA, Atlantic Theatre Company, Washington National Opera, and Geffen Playhouse. Kevin Williamson received his MFA in Choreography from UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance and is a certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst.