Koubi’s work comes out of a decade-long search to explore his past as it intersects with his present. Born in France, Koubi for years was only vaguely curious about the origins of his name. “I thought perhaps my family had roots in Brittany,” he says. At
He set off to Algeria. So began a process Koubi describes as nothing short of “a reorientation of my senses.” He spent days on end simply walking through the streets “trying to feel them.” He returned again and again. Already a renowned dancer and choreographer in France, Koubi decided to create a company of exclusively Algerian dancers. “Found brothers,” he calls them.
Never before had he encountered dancers with such a commitment to learning. “Everybody who auditioned had been breakdancing in the streets. They had no formal training in classical or modern dance and were hungry to learn.”
Koubi finds inspiration for his choreography in Arabic calligraphy, the motion implied in its dramatic strokes. Likewise, he is moved by the searching inherent in Sufism and its whirling dervishes, a searching based on motion.
Still, he is quick to point out that his work in not a tribute to Arabic culture, but rather a tribute to both sides of the Mediterranean. “It’s in the middle because I am in the middle,” he says. And the music Koubi's troupe dances to comes from both sides of the Mediterranean too. Bach mingles with Egyptian modernist composer Hamza El Din.
As Koubi is “in the middle” in his approach to his company’s art, so too he is “in the middle” in his efforts to advance dance for both the men and women of North Africa. He is working on a documentary to be released in 2019 entitled The Nature of Women. It will explore issues of gender in the region with an all-female assembly.
Koubi knows he's bringing this show to America at a time of political and social discord, particularly when it comes to Arabic culture. So far, there have been no protests. “Audiences have only applauded,” he says. He is being modest. There has been nothing but standing ovations.
– Elizabeth Hanly, Artburst Miami
Cie. Hervé Koubi: "What the Day Owes to the Night." 8 p.m. Saturday, February 10, at the Olympia Theater, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami; 305-237-3010; olympiatheater.org. Tickets cost $25 to $55 via olympiatheater.org.