Named an “Artist of the Year” (City Pages), Sally Rousse began dancing in Barre, Vermont. She trained at the School of American Ballet and with David Howard before performing as a leading dancer with Ballet Chicago, the Royal Ballet of Flanders, and James Sewell Ballet, which she co-founded. In addition to many roles in the classical and Balanchine repertoires, Sally has danced works by Maurice Béjart, Jiri Kylián, and more than 75 works created on her by contemporary choreographers.
In 1994, she began studying and performing Improvisation and Contact, primarily with Patrick Scully, Chris Aiken, and Hijack, aiming to draw upon a larger movement palette to extend the definitions, aesthetics, and relevance of ballet and ballerina. She is a two-time recipient of the McKnight Artist Fellowship for Dancers (2001 and 2014).
Rousse's work as a choreographer has been supported by diverse venues and organizations: the Southern Theater, Walker Art Center, VocalEssence, Marshall Field's, Harvard's American Repertory Theatre, the Cartoon Channel, Nickelodeon, Omaha Ballet, James Sewell Ballet, 3-Legged Race, the Jerome Foundation, and the McKnight Foundation. She co-created the aerial/dance/theater pieces Floor Show (2003) with Homer Avila and Awedville (2004) with James Sewell. trickpony (2002), her collaboration with Chelsea Bacon, headed the 2002 list of top ten dance events in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Recent grants and awards include the 2014 McKnight Fellowship for Dancers; the 2013 Sage Award for Outstanding Performer; funding from the Minnesota State Arts Board to develop an independent artistic profile; and a Jerome Travel/Study grant to Berlin and Frankfurt, Germany where Rousse engaged in an aesthetic dialogue with Forsythe Dance Company luminaries Noah Gelber and Dana Caspersen about the state of ballet and her place in it.
Sally performs, teaches, choreographs, and raises her two children in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
(12/31/14)It's been quite a year. Starting in the Fall of 2013 with James Sewell Ballet's 20-year retrospective where I got to perform some of my favorite works like Late and Swan Pond as well as coach one of our signature works In Counterpoint. Then, 2014 started off with Under Epic Granite which my fellow Buddhist and JSB alumn Penelope Freeh choreographed for me. It honors my grandfather who came to Vermont to work in the granite industry, and was dedicated to the late Sage Cowles, my friend and supporter. Full of tricky, quirky pointe work and references to the seashore and Chariots of Fire (I can explain) it was a mini tour de force for me and the first time I have performed with work gloves.
A Sally Jubilee! was a huge celebration of many things: my departure from JSB, the company I co-founded in 1990 in New York City; the beginning of a new dance career on my own; and my 50th birthday. Friends, colleagues, and family turned out for a fancy dinner/fundraiser and a gala performance featuring yet more highlights and a veritable roast of my tenure at JSB. Mad King Thomas killed with a performance based on rumors and fantasies! I got to crowd surf off the stage to cupcakes in the lobby to the musical stylings of The Brass Messengers. I promtly boarded a plane to the roaring ocean with my kids where I was pummeled and humbled nearly to death by waves.
April to August was devoted to the American Swedish Institute where I was Artist in Residence. For four hours each week, I was "on display" on the third floor Ballroom, where I installed a marley dance floor and built a ballet barre to give myself class each day as vistors watched, joined in, asked questions and took photos with me. Noah Bremer and I co-created KOM HIT! there and performed it with a stellar cast throughout the 33 rooms of the original castle to sold out audiences. We even had to add shows. I learned so much from Noah and and everyone involved. I'm not sure I ever want to dance on a proscenium stage again, having felt the vital pulses of humans inches away from me.
And I haven't! My next gig was a month in Hong Kong, performing on the Kwun Tong Pier. Led by Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren, I and ten other performers (musicians and dancers from India, Germany, Kasatstaan, Hong Kong) rehearsed and performed five different shows related to pier life, immigrants, industry, new starts. It felt like the culmination of the past 12 months for me, encountering my past, my roots, my business, and what's ahead. Armed with the glorious McKnight Fellowship (my second and surely the last-- as a dancer) the love of my children and a good man, I feel drained and full at the same time. It's been an incredible year.
Sally Rousse served as ASI Artist-In-Residence from June 11— July 13, 2014.
Rogue ballet dancer Sally Rousse and theater innovator Noah Bremer partnered with the American Swedish Institute to explore the nooks and crannies of the Turnblad Mansion in KOM HIT! (Come Here!) — a world premiere dance-theater piece inspired by Sweden’s literary father, August Strindberg, and his obsession with gender imbalance, class inequality and a morose disquietude of the heart. The audience is completely immersed in this modern reimagining of Strindberg’s world as they follow characters from room to room throughout the Turnblad Mansion. Curiosity drives their experiences as the non-linear narrative unfolds into a unique theatrical adventure.