Dance review: Compagnie Herve Koubi has outstanding U.S. debut at Alden Theatre

April 14, 2013

Compagnie Herve Koubi, the French-based, Algerian-rooted troupe, made an astounding American debut Friday at — of all places — the Alden Theatre in McLean. Twelve chiseled male dancers were wedged onto a stage that was several yards narrower than they were accustomed to, and in a theater surely smaller and less full than the company has seen overseas. (They’re booked to perform at Moscow’s Bolshoi in July.)

The decade-old company’s previous projects include a farce based on the ballet “Coppelia” and a site-specific work performed with dancers dressed like statues at Versailles. But for his American premiere, Koubi left the theatrics behind and brought only bodies. “Ce que le jour doit à la nuit” (“What the day owes to the night”) is a stunning fusion of acrobatics, gymnastics, b-boying, modern dance and ballet. Add traditional Sufi music, haze and atmospheric lighting, and what Koubi has created looks deceptively like an ancient desert ritual.

Frenzied sections of movement, which included 15-foot trust falls and two men spinning on their heads, were followed by more deliberate ensemble sections. Unison breathing was part of the soundtrack. The men would stand, backs facing the audience, and let their rippling shoulders put on a show. Even in the tumbling passes, the men exhibited an uncanny control. No momentum was necessary, as if for 30 minutes, there was no such thing as physics. Compagnie Herve Koubi only performed excerpts from what is actually an hour-long work. The dancers were presented by the Alden and Christopher K. Morgan & Artists, a local dance company that offered three fairly esoteric pieces during the first half of the show. Some people left at intermission.

Now to see what they missed, those folks must fly to France.

Ritzel is a freelance writer.

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