OZ Arts presents
Compagnie Hervé Koubi
On Thursday February 2nd, OZ Arts Nashville opened their season with What the Day Owes to the Night, performed by the dance troupe Compagnie Hervé Koubi. The evening began with a short introduction of the upcoming season at OZ Arts and then a short talk by the choreographer Mr. Koubi himself. He explained that he was born in the south of France and after a conversation with his father discovered that his familial roots stretched back to Algeria. The name of the work, What the Day Owes to the Night, is the same name of a 2008 novel written by the Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra. The novel follows the life story of a young man from Algeria in the 1930’s.
What the Day Owes to the Night was written in 2013 and has since earned Koubi an international reputation. A dozen dancers participate in this production and the dance ranged from hip-hop to traditional styles. Koubi explained before the piece that his dancers are street dancers from all over the Mediterranean: Morocco, Italy, Egypt, and more. The music was also wide ranging, featuring excerpts from J.S. Bach’s Passions to Sufi traditional music. The show began with the stage in complete darkness. A barely audible gong began to ring rhythmically as dim shapes slowly moved onto the stage. Over the course of many minutes, the lights were gradually brought up while the dancers slowly swayed and bent on the stage. It was a masterful depiction of the sunrise.
As the lights came up the music shifted to computerized sounds and we saw all twelve dancers dressed only in white flowing pants. Soon some dancers broke off into more acrobatic motions – backflips and aerials – while some seemed to spin impossibly fast while doing a handstand. These overt athletic gestures always elicited a gasp from the crowd as these muscular men dazzled the audience. These gestures were no doubt impressive, but over the course of the 60 minute show they lost a bit of their luster. After the breathtaking opening I was ready for the immediate appeal of What the Day Owes to continue throughout. However, there were many moments where the story failed to grip me in the initial ways it had.
Despite being unable to sustain itself for the length of the program, the work is nevertheless a bold statement. The commanding moments of the work are so overwhelming that it is hard to figure out a stronger depiction of energy and power in dance. Perhaps part of that is the experience of seeing it live. There is something about a performance such as this where it truly does not feel as if it can be recreated. If I listen to a performance of Beethoven I feel as if many other orchestras can replicate a similar experience. But there is something about being in the room and seeing the sweat from these performers that is enthralling. When one dancer leaps off of the backs of other dancers there is a moment of real risk experienced collectively. This is the sort of experience that makes for an effective art work. There are only two more chances to see Compagnie Hervé Koubi this week and I would recommend the experience to everyone. For more information and to purchase tickets please visit https://www.ozartsnashville.org.