Danse Lumiere banner

Mysteriosos cover

Mysteriosos Flyer


Choreography by KATHRYN ROSZAK

Lissa Resnick, Kathryn Roszak, and Michael McClure at the Jazzschool 

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 following article originally appeared in

Generations Beat Online
E-News of the Journalists Network on Generations - Volume 12, Number 6, March 15, 2012

The Arts Beat: Spank Michael McClure with 80 Roses

by Paul Kleyman

The venerable poet - his handsome vigor belying his nearly 80 years - stood patiently beside the piano, clad in black under his sea-foam swell of white hair, as he waited to catch the next rhythmic wave for bending the notes of another verse. Jazz virtuoso George Brooks eased pink fingers bar-to-bar over ivories and ebonies. He glanced up and Michael McClure peered down to pick up the beat for a phrase or verse from his large blue folder. A shawled crone and younger woman with a golden fall of hair danced, circling the ruddy head of a ceramic horse sculpted vertically in full whinny.

The stars of the premier performance of McClure's "Mysteriosos," soulfully transported by Brooks on piano and saxophone, gave the sold-out if compact audience of about 150 at the Berkeley Jazzschool a rose-fresh scent to the daisy-chain cliché of poetry read to against jazz rhythms. I couldn't help but think of the now-classic kinescope of McClure's friend Jack Kerouac chanting his poems on late-night TV, while standing beside a sleek grand piano played by host Steve Allen. But McClure's evening wasn't a nostalgic rehash of a tired custom.

What was new for McClure was the choreography and performance by Danse Lumière's director Kathryn Roszak, with Los Angeles-based guest dancer Lissa Resnick. Roszak and Resnick scribed the poems in a calligraphy of limbs, although Roszak, at 50, proved too lithe and lovely to carry off her portrayal of a dancing crone, an image she drew from the poems, very convincingly. She only proved that 50 is the new eternal.

Roszak approached McClure about collaborating after she read the beat-scene icon's 2010 volume, "Mysteriosos." The poetry collection is titled in homage to enigmatic pianist Thelonious Monk's 1958 album of that name. McClure had never partnered with a dance company before, and was, as always, ready for something new.

Their selection of just a few poems harmonized beautifully with the dance and movement, syncopated with McClure's intensely ecological images: "See the little sparrow with her eyes on the hawk / Everything around is just more talk / Don't use a knife to pound in a nail / Spank me with a rose / I'm headed for jail." There were only hints of McClure's signature "Grahhs," his deep vocalizations asserting the powers of the earth, or of his political anguish. But the "clanking of trucks, thunder-shaking waves, and the taste of mangos" surprised and sweetened the audience's appetite for more.

As I watched, enchanted throughout the performance, I thought this might be a perfect time for more such collaborations with fine artists of the new old age to bring poetry a new life through such collaborations. Roszak has worked in the past with the great Gary Snyder and others, but why not a revitalization - not a mere revival - of the jazz-poetry tradition?

Roszak mentioned after the performance that she'd like to develop other such programs for a larger venue, for example, the Berkeley Repertory Theater, next door to the Jazzschool. Judging by the full audience earlier this month and the enthusiastic response, I wonder if rep theaters around the country might do well to consider harmonizing the muses for young and old, especially given the current poetry revival. Meanwhile, what did I do with that rose?

the Sun King

© 2014 Kathryn Roszak   •   Danse Lumière   •   Dance on Center   •   (510) 233-5550   •   kdance@sonic.net

• Updated 15 January 2014 • W3C Validated XHTML 1.0 Transitional CSS 3 •