Hervé Koubi brings ‘Barbarian Nights’ ballet to Aspen
Special to The Aspen Times
IF YOU GO …
What: Compagnie Hervé Koubi, presented by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
Where: Aspen District Theatre
When: Wednesday, July 24, 8 p.m.
How much: $36-$94
Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office; aspenshowtix.com
Imagine 13 male dancers whirling around a stage in outbursts of cartwheels, somersaults, forward flips, back flips and headspins dressed in Swarovski-inspired headgear to music by Wagner, Mozart and Faure.
French-Algerian choreographer Hervé Koubi, founder of Compagnie Hervé Koubi, brings this imaginative work to Aspen for a one-night-only production Wednesday of “The Barbarian Nights, or The First Dawns of the World,” which had its world premiere at the Cannes Dance Festival in November 2015. The local performance is hosted by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
Despite the company’s past four seasons of extensive touring, including a total of about 70 performances annually in both Europe and all over North America, Koubi took an interesting path to get to where he is today.
Commonly, one’s heritage is known early on in life. Koubi, however, didn’t discover that he was Algerian until age 25. Exploring his roots led to the desire to merge cultures and to the creation of “The Barbarian Nights, or The First Dawns of the World.”
“I chose to bring my flair to what I feel is the most beautiful: the mixture of cultures and religions that help me draw the foundations of a common geography on which we stand today,” Koubi said.
As a work based on the origin of the Mediterranean culture, it represents the ancestral fear of strangers and the organic desire to resist people who are different.
“The piece takes root from the awe-inspiring and unavoidable story of our Mediterranean basin,” Koubi explained. “I think it is necessary for everyone to believe in a universal culture which is at once shared, mixed and linked in order to wish for an inevitably common future. … My name is Hervé and I am very proud to hold that name; it’s such a French name. I am also very happy to have been raised in a pluricultural vision that gave me wider horizons to explore.”
After traveling to North Africa and auditioning more than 250 people, Koubi selected 13 men who had street dance backgrounds. The search for dancers of Algerian descent was inspired by Koubi’s quest in search of his own identity.
“The dancers I met overseas have a hip-hop background, more specialized in acrobatics,” Koubi said. “I decided to mix their dance skills with my approach to dance. I am very interested in the quality of the movement, the combination of moves, the way dancers are committed to a project and how their bodies can be an extension of their thoughts and of my idea.”
The movement can speak in ways that other media cannot, he found.
“Dance can also help to create a universal culture seeing as how dance is a body language and body is the common thing that all human beings share,” Koubi said.
While he studied dance at University of Aix-en-Provence, he earned a diploma in 2002 as a pharmaceutical doctor.
“My parents wanted me to have a good diploma,” he explained. “I wanted to dance but I also wanted my parents to be proud of me. I studied and became a doctor to please them, but I couldn’t stand to be in a pharmacy selling pills. The appeal of dance has been too strong for me to resist.”
After deciding to focus exclusively on his dance career, Koubi has been the associate choreographer at the Pole National Supérieur de Danse in France and has been awarded the French medal of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in July 2015. Hopefully his parents aren’t too upset with him.
“Dance is my medium,” Koubi said. “I use it as a way of expression to talk about all the former civilizations, like an ode to those who were here before us. I want to make an ode to the one who, above wars, speaks of unity, to the one who gathers all, to the one who turns their backs to identity claims, to the one who takes the best of everyone and whom, throughout its history, honors man as their anthem. I use dance to develop the relationship we may have with the unknown, with the so-called barbarian.”
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Jazz Aspen Snowmass will hosts its annual June Experience and JAS Cafe concert series in-person this summer, releasing details and lineups Monday.