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Compagnie Hervé KOUBI’s ‘What the day owes to the night’ takes Audience on an Unforgettable Dance Journey [REVIEW]


Ce que le jour doit à la nuit - Crédit Photo - Karim AMAR

Compagnie Hervé KOUBI in “What the day owes to the night.” Photo by Karim Amar.

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

The second to last production of DANCECleveland’s 2019-2020 season, French troupe Compagnie Hervé KOUBI arrived in Cleveland to a sold-out show last Saturday, February 15 at Playhouse Square’s Mimi Ohio Theatre.  Those attending got what they came for as the all-male company (for this production) of 15 mostly former street dancers from Algeria, Morocco France, Italy, Israel and Slovenia eagerly lived up to audience expectations in a dazzling performance of choreographer Hervé Koubi’s 2013 work What the day owes to the night.

Presented by DANCECleveland and Tri-C Performing Arts, What the day owes to the night gets its title and a bit of inspiration from Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra’s 2010 novel of the same name about a boy moved from one family to the next. Koubi, who grew up in Cannes, France, took that idea and applied it to his own personal journey of discovery of his Algerian heritage that the abstract contemporary dance piece explores. Anchored in capoeira, gymnastics, parkour and breakdance movement, What the day owes to the night took the audience along for a ride of extremes in athleticism and grace.

The company’s physically-ripped bare-chested and barefoot dancers in long white flowing skirts atop white pants tempered the rawness of North African/Mediterranean street dance with the well-rehearsed stage choreography of Koubi that made for a potent combination that was both mesmerizing and awe-inspiring.

Cie Koubi - Ce que le jour doit à la nuit - Argentat 31 mai 2018

Compagnie Hervé KOUBI in “What the day owes to the night.” Photo by Olivier Soulie.

Ce que le jour doit à la nuit - Crédit Photo Nathalie STERNALSKI (9)

Compagnie Hervé KOUBI in “What the day owes to the night.” Photo by Nathalie Sternalski.

Danced to a wide-ranging atmospheric score comprised of original music by Belgian musician/sound designer Maxime Bodson along with music by Hamza El Din, Jean-Sébastien Bach, Sufi music and silence, the mood of the work shifted from high-energy to dreamlike and mystical and back again.  Within that, the dancers performed an array of upside down whirling dervish spins on their heads and hands, gymnastic tumbling runs and various capoeira-inspired jumps and leg sweeps. The dancer’s high-flying machismo-fueled antics at times gave way to periods of lush, slow movement reminiscent of butoh dance troupe Sankai Juku with the occasional dancer coming to a dead stop to take in his surroundings and the efforts of his fellow dancers or marching in rows like some kind of street dance clergy on the move to sacred choral music.

The non-stop piece sans intermission appeared to follow no central figure along this journey, instead showcasing a bevy of solos, duets and group dances that gave each of the company’s dancers room to shine.

One of many visually bold movement sequences repeated a few times in the work found long-dreadlock-haired dancer El Houssaini Zahid lifted backwards onto the shoulders of several fellow dancers and falling backwards to the ground, taking the entire company of dancers onstage with him like collapsing dominoes — the effect was spiritual.

What the day owes to the night concluded with dancer Bendehiba Maamar emerging from the full company of dancers to the front of the stage to quietly recite in Arabic a poem by Koubi as the stage lights gradually dimmed. He repeated the phrase “I went there” followed by those places that were perhaps reflected in the dance work’s journey. Fittingly, as the curtain closed on the troupe, the audience erupted with a well-deserved standing ovation.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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The Debut of Canada’s RUBBERBANDance Group Brings with it a Unique Blend of Hip Hop and Contemporary Dance Styles


Vic's Mix photo 1 - Credit Bill Hebert

RUBBERBANDance Group in “Vic’s Mix”. Photo by Bill Hebert.

By Steve Sucato

One of the early pioneers of the seamless blending of hip hop dance styles and those of contemporary dance, Victor Quijada’s Montreal-based RUBBERBANDance Group has, the past decade or so, been creating the future of dance while waiting for the dance world to slowly catch up to that future.

Presented by DANCECleveland and Tri-C Performing Arts, the critically acclaimed company will make its Ohio debut on Saturday, November 9 at Playhouse Square’s Mimi Ohio Theatre for one performance only.

Born and raised in Los Angeles to Mexican parents (his father a foundry worker and his mother a factory worker), Quijada found his way to dance at age 8 through b-boying circles and hip-hop clubs. Formal training in other dance styles followed with Quijada becoming a member of LA’s Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble. His career as a professional dancer took off in the late 1990’s when he joined Twyla Tharp’s dance company THARP! and continued in stints with Eliot Feld’s Ballets Tech and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. His choreographic career came with the founding RUBBERBAND in 2002.

In a 2013 article for The Scotsman, Quijada said he is the product of “the culture I grew up in, the respect and wonder I have for art, the professional career I had in those high caliber classical and contemporary dance companies, and the interface between those places… If one of those things had been missing, it wouldn’t have led me here.”

Along with starting RUBBERBAND as an experiment in the movement blending of what he calls “the two poles that inhabit him,” Quijada conceived a technique for dancers he calls the RUBBERBAND Method that “combines the energy of hip hop, the refinement of classical ballet, and the angular quality of contemporary dance.”

Vic's Mix photo 14 - Credit Bill Hebert

RUBBERBANDance Group in “Vic’s Mix”. Photo by Bill Hebert.

That signature technique will be seen in full force in the company’s presentation of Vic’s Mix (2016), a retrospective and remix show that Quijada says he revises and remounts every 5-years and samples some of what he feels is his best bits of choreography from some 40 creations he has made for RUBBERBAND and other dance companies. Saturday’s 75-minute Vic’s Mix program will spans works from 2002-2013.

“It’s a look back on things that are still relevant to me and a chance for me to re-appropriate my own works that I have made for other companies,” said Quijada on the phone from Montreal.

Set to a soundtrack by various composers including original music from longtime company collaborator Jasper Gahunia, Vic’s Mix is delivered in 2 acts. Act 1 covers excerpts from Quijada’s early creations from 2002-2005 performed in sneakers. It will give audiences a taste of Quijada’s evolution as a choreographer and his use of the RUBBERBAND Method. Included in the act will be “The Traviattle” (2003) set to Giuseppe Verdi’s “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” from the opera La traviata, a piece Quijada originally choreographed as part of his evening-length work Metabolism that has become an audience favorite.

Act 2 revisits excerpts from works made between 2008-2013 including “Second Coming,” a piece Quijada made for Scottish Dance Theatre in (2012). The aptly named work followed Quijada’s very first commission outside of RUBBERBAND, 2003’s “Self Observation Without Judgement” for Scottish Dance Theatre that earned the United Kingdom’s Peter Darrell Choreographic Award. Also a part of act 2 will be an excerpt from 2008’s Punto Ciego, inspired by the nonlinear approaches of author Milan Kundera and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino.

Vic's Mix photo 8 - Credit Bill Hebert

RUBBERBANDance Group in “Vic’s Mix”. Photo by Bill Hebert.

Vic’s Mix will be performed by RUBBERBAND’s 8-member company who are all steeped in the RUBBERBAND Method after intense training.

“Time here with RUBBERBAND kind of passes like dog years,” says Quijada. “The amount of change and growth in one year for a dancer is enough for 7-years.”

And while Saturday’s program will be RUBBERBAND’s area debut, Quijada’s work has been seen here before with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s performance of his “Physikal Linguistiks” in 2010 presented by DANCECleveland.  And the RUBBERBAND Method’s influences were seen recently in former company member James Gregg’s work “éveillé” (2018) for GroundWorks DanceTheater.

With Vic’s Mix Quijada says audiences will experience those things that drove the creation of his works in the first place: “human interactions, intimacy and connection, comedy and the feelings of highs and lows.”

RUBBERBANDance Group performs Vic’s Mix, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, November 9; Playhouse Square’s Mimi Ohio Theatre, 1511 Euclid Ave., Downtown, Cleveland. Tickets are $25-50. For tickets and information visit playhousesquare.org or call (216) 241-6000.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Of Gods and Mortals: Elu Dance Company Remounts their Acclaimed 2016 Production ‘barefaced’


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Elu Dance Company’s (L-R) Mikaela Clark and Mackenzie Valley in “barefaced.” Photo by Lauren Stonestreet.

By Steve Sucato

One of the best local dance productions of the 2015-16 season, Elu Dance Company‘s barefaced was a thoughtful, poignant and smartly conceived dance-theater work based on C. S. Lewis’ 1956 novel “Till We Have Faces” — a retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche from The Golden Ass of Apuleius.

Now, after a 3-year hiatus, a newly enhanced and expanded version of barefaced returns to the stage, Saturday, September 14 at Playhouse Square’s Hanna Theatre in downtown Cleveland.

Directed, choreographed and performed by Elu company founders Mikaela Clark and Mackenzie Valley, the 90-minute production tells the harrowing and heartbreaking tale of Psyche and her older sister Orual and their loving bond as sisters that transcends gods and realms.

Told from the perspective of Orual, as an accusation against the gods, barefaced is set in the fictive kingdom of Glome where the beautiful Psyche has been sentenced as a human sacrifice to the unseen “God of the Mountain”. But instead of meeting her fate on the mountain, Orual discovers her sister is very much alive and is now the bride of “God of the Mountain”. A fantastical tale of deception and devotion ensues spanning lifetimes that Clark and Valley play out onstage in contemporary dance movement.

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Elu Dance Company’s (L-R) Mackenzie Valley and Mikaela Clark in “barefaced.” Photo by Lauren Stonestreet.

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Elu Dance Company’s (L-R) Mikaela Clark and Mackenzie Valley in “barefaced.” Photo by Lauren Stonestreet.

Set to music composed, performed and recorded by Ken and Patt Wadenpfuhl from Cleveland-based non-profit Ancient Path, the dance-theater piece also uses recorded narration of excerpts from C.S. Lewis’ novel to help drive the story line.

Clark and Valley will also once again share the stage with local artist and sculptor Mark Sugiuchi’s mixed-medium mountain sculpture and for this updated production. What has changed for this production is Clark and Valley say they have almost entirely re-choreographed the work. They have also added another layer to their storytelling in the form of dance film snippets created by Mark Valley that are weaved throughout the production and depict additional scenes from the Lewis’ tale performed by 10 area professional dancers.

“We wanted to make the storytelling more concrete,” says Valley.

The hope for Clark and Valley is that the changes made to the production will make an already great production more readable for audiences. Suffice it to say, if that is the case this new barefaced production may be one of this new dance season’s early hits.

Elu Dance Company presents barefaced…inspired by C. S. Lewis’ “Till We Have Faces,” 7:30 p.m., Saturday, September 14; Playhouse Square’s Hanna Theatre, 2067 E 14th Street, Cleveland; Tickets are $22–45 and available online at playhousesquare.org or by calling (216) 241-6000.

 

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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