It takes a special kind of performer to bewitch an audience with stillness. Rosy Simas has that gift. An articulate dancer, Simas has the ability to suffuse the smallest movements, or even complete motionlessness, with a captivating aura.
Simas’s Seneca heritage and Native identity figured strongly into her work this year, whether through her family’s history or her own experiences as a person of color. Her subversive art takes on a point of view, but also deeply embraces beauty.
In July, Simas showed two versions of We Wait in Darkness, a piece that explored her family history as well as the U.S.’s treatment of Native tribes. The work was featured as an installation at All My Relations Gallery, which included performance and mixed-media elements, and it was also performed as a full-length dance work at the Red Eye Theater. The project was heavily researched through interviews and trips to the reservation where her family is from. The choreography that Simas created was noteworthy for its introspection, finding generations of trauma in her breath and adroit gestures. Onstage, even the way she curved her spine, her bare back facing the audience, became a moment of chilling purpose. Channeling the stories of her ancestors, particularly her grandmother, Simas created an intense depiction of anguish and strength.
This fall, Simas showed another work, “Skin(s),” as part of the Right Here Showcase at the Cowles Center’s Tek Box. In that piece, Simas continued her fruitful relationship with composer François Richomme, and worked with Navarrete x Kajiyama Dance Theater (NAKA) to mine the experiences of people of color. While often finding surprising uses for rhythm, Simas displayed her skill in creating work that employed sounds of the dancers bodies in relation to the composer’s score. This work especially came alive when Simas herself took the stage, emanating with her transfixing presence.
Simas’s use of sculptural objects, both in “Skin(s)” and in We Wait in Darkness, demonstrate how Simas is more than a choreographer; she is an artist who can shift through various disciplines. She’s already a celebrated local artist, but now she’s poised to establish herself more surely on the national scene. —Sheila Regan