fb-pixel Skip to main content
DANCE REVIEW

Hervé Koubi revisits his Algerian roots at the Majestic

Compagnie Hervé Koubi performing “Ce qui le jour doit à la nuit” (“What the Day Owes to the Night”) at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Saturday marked the third time Compagnie Hervé Koubi has presented “Ce qui le jour doit à la nuit” (“What the Day Owes to the Night”) in Boston. This intriguingly titled piece was the program when Global Arts Live gave the company its Boston debut at the Institute of Contemporary Art in 2016, and it was performed again, along with Koubi’s “Les nuits barbares, ou les premiers matins du monde” (“Barbarian Nights, or The First Mornings of the World”), when the company returned to the ICA in 2018. This time out, “Ce qui le jour doit à la nuit” kicked off Global Arts Live’s Winter Dance Fest 2023 in a single performance at the Cutler Emerson Majestic Theatre. The piece has been reworked to good effect; its trajectory is sharper and clearer, and the dancing is even more spectacular than it was in 2016.

Advertisement



Koubi himself was born in Cannes, of Algerian parents; he studied both biology and dance at the University of Aix-en-Provence. Although he earned a doctorate in pharmacy in 2002, he eventually chose dance as a career, and in his choreography he reconnects with his Algerian roots. Created in 2013, “Ce qui le jour doit à la nuit” takes its title from a 2008 novel by Yasmina Khadra (pen name of Algerian army officer Mohammed Moulessehoul) about a conflicted young Algerian during his country’s war for independence. The 2016 version was performed by 12 extraordinary male dancers, all with street-dance backgrounds, whom Koubi selected from a pool of more than 200 at an audition in Algeria in 2009. The eclectic score included traditional Sufi music, Egyptian Nubian composer Hamza El Din’s “Escalay” (“The Water Wheel”) as played by the Kronos Quartet, a snippet of “Spring” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” and the opening chorus from the 1724 version of Bach’s “St. John Passion.”

Compagnie Hervé Koubi performing “Ce qui le jour doit à la nuit” (“What the Day Owes to the Night”) at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Running just an hour, “Ce que le jour doit à la nuit” does not retell the novel; it’s rather a communal desert hymn. The piece begins in darkness, with a group of white blurs on the floor; we hear chiming that might be a call to prayer, and as dawn comes on, the 13 men, in white jackets, pants, and skirts, yawn and stretch. They answer the call with a dizzying display of cartwheels, somersaults, backflips, headspins, and spinning on one hand or two, all of it tossed off as humbly and easily as if they were ballet dancers doing tendus and pliés. The Allegro pastorale from Vivaldi’s “Spring” gives way to a thumping rhythm as the dancers throw themselves into the arms of one another; one dancer ascends via the backs of his fellows, points to the sky, and then falls.

Advertisement



El Din’s “Escalay” signals a transition into capoeira and martial arts movement; then the “St. John Passion,” distorted at first, is the cue for an anguished passion play with Pietà poses and supine dancers being flung into the air. Exhausted, some of the dancers lie down and are resurrected by colleagues. A group headstand leads to all 13 dancers forming a chain; then some individual whirling starts, and a ritual of power and support and sharp cries leads to a tribal hunter dance.

The chiming returns, the lights dim, and the movement slows; night is falling. One dancer comes forward and speaks to us in Arabic; the gist of the speech, which is translated in the program, is that Koubi went to Algeria out of love for his lost brothers and his people, and because he believes “in the strength of love and spirit.” “I went there” is Koubi’s repeated refrain; after watching “Ce que le jour doit à la nuit,” you might be inspired to join him.

Advertisement



CE QUE LE JOUR DOIT À LA NUIT

Choreography by Hervé Koubi. Lighting by Lionel Buzonie. Costumes by Guillaume Gabriel. Performed by Compagnie Hervé Koubi. Presented by Global Arts Live. At Cutler Emerson Majestic Theatre, Saturday.

Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at jeffreymgantz@gmail.com.


Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at jeffreymgantz@gmail.com.