A Masterwork for the New Century:
La Compagnie Hervé Koubi at WhiteBird Dance
A remarkable piece of movement, a triumph, really, Hervé Koubi’s Ce que le jour doit a la nuit, or in English, ‘What the day owes the night’ pulls together threads stretching into the past, the present and the future.
With a seemingly effortless hand, Koubi weaves together an inexplicably organic, yet richly structured effort, one that satisfies the head and the heart in equal measures.
Featuring twelve male dancers, all from Algiers, the 70-minute piece unfolds from a static, formless mass, to explore the sinew of the space, through changes in rhythm, shape and dynamics. Each dancer brings something unique to the cause, wearing on his body the familial memory, perhaps of war, of rebellion, of rule, a new generation of Algerian men, careening through the tapestry of time.
Koubi traces on the backs of these dancers his origins, late discovered, of his own Algerian past. Yet this is not a political piece. This does not have an axe to grind, or a soapbox to stand on. If anything, Koubi softens the lens, and pulls it wider, allowing the audience to simply appreciate something humane: He offers a new idea of men, of nurturance, of interconnectedness and community.
Koubi embraces the athletic mastery of these movers, adopting and utilizing their skills – acrobatic flips and falls, head spins, inversions, turns and lifts – and cannily transforms these movements from ‘street’ vernacular to something exquisite, almost formal, without putting on one whiff of pretention. It’s as if Koubi can regulate the expression of the dance, and temper it, always, with restraint and balance.
Towards the end of the piece, the artists face the audience for the first time, and one realizes that rather than devolving into the kind of showy trickery that some overtly athletic dance can veer itself into – spiraling into a kind of egoic, “Hey, look at me!” childishness – this piece had the confidence, the vision, to say something more, something deeper, and that those questions could be seen and echoed in each and every movement.
It’s hard to describe, and even harder to believe, but the alchemic reactions of these movers approached the depth and breadth of nature itself, at times moored and solid, and simultaneously flowing, like waves crashing on the rocks, or the bright wind rushing through the trees.
There were a few moments like these, of such pronounced and arresting beauty, that this reviewer was actually brought to tears.
I wish I could see it again. Bravo.