Rosy Simas conjures ancient mysteries in Weave

by Jane Fries for The Dance Journal

A succession of slow-moving performers led the audience into the theater to view the Rosy Simas Danse production of Weave at the Performance Garage this past weekend. Their eyes downcast, the dancers moved through sculptural forms as they were accompanied by quiet sounds of nature. Inside the theater, the sight of waving grasses was projected on vertical panels hung across the rear of the stage and the sound of wind enveloped the audience in a sweeping sense of nature.

Onstage, Rosy Simas performed a stationary solo. Her movements seemed to be drawn from an ancient source; she kept her eyes closed as she made small adjustments of her head and fluttered her sensitive fingertips. In the program notes for Weave, Simas (a member of the Seneca Nation) writes, “the living architecture of my body is formed by movement deeply connected to the earth, my culture, and community.”

Simas has received numerous awards, including a prestigious 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship, in support of her creative work concerned with (as described on her website) “a wide range of political, social and cultural subject matter from a Native feminist perspective.”

Also performing solos were Zoe Klein and Sam Aros Mitchell. With active arm, hand and head movements, Klein seemed to be telling a story through her dancing. She made repeated fluttering hand gestures in front of her mouth as if to signify the silent words flowing forth. In his solo, Mitchell’s dancing was accompanied by a read-aloud text, furthering the story-telling impression of the choreography.

In the most striking moment of Weave, Klein strode across the stage on a diagonal path, wrapped in a cloak of material that trailed in her wake. When she reached the downstage corner, she climbed up on a stool in front of an industrial fan; she appeared triumphant and ready to take flight as the fabric billowed behind her.

Weave’s refined soloists were intermittently joined by a small group of local performers. They included Kimya Imani Jackson, Jung Woong Kim, Mehgan Abdel-Moneim, and Aya Razzaz. At one point, they formed an ensemble that ebbed and flowed like water, beautifully creating the impression of small eddies. Their loose, shimmering pants and tops picked up the light from the film projection – a simple and atmospheric effect.

In addition to choreographing the piece, Simas designed the set and film components of Weave. The music was composed by Simas’ frequent collaborator Francois Richomme, and his electronic soundscape contributed swirling sounds of water and long, booming vibrations to the immersive sensory experience.

Rosy Simas Danse is a Minnesota-based dance company (although performers Klein and Mitchell are both situated in California), and premiered its new work Weave in January 2019 in St. Paul. Here in Philadelphia, Weave was presented by local arts organization Intercultural Journeys, making the 3rd stop on its national tour. For the audience, the experience was a subtle and meditative rendezvous.

About Jane Fries

Originally from the west coast, Jane Fries pursued undergraduate studies in dance at San Diego State University, where she got her start writing about dance for the student newspaper. After an escapade as a correspondent for Dance Magazine in the south of France, she went on to earn her MA in dance from Mills College in Oakland, California. Jane's subsequent explorations in non-theatrical dance forms led her to take up the practice of yoga. She has lived in the Philadelphia area since 1996, and has had the great pleasure to study Iyengar yoga with Joan White. Jane's writing reflects her background in dance history and interest in documentation and preservation.

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