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Capoeira, breakdancing and Algerian tradition combine in the best dance import we've seen this year.

A dozen Algerian and Burkinabe dancers spin like whirling dervishes in long white skirts.

But they're shirtless, look like Chippendale performers, and they're spinning on their heads. That's the latest invention of French doctor-turned-choreographer Hervé Koubi, and it's this year's first show from White Bird production company, one of Portland's only importers of touring international dance.

WW: You trained to be a doctor before becoming a choreographer—why switch to dance?

Hervé Koubi: My parents wanted me to have a good diploma. I wanted to dance but I also want my parents to be proud of me. I studied and become a doctor to please them, but I think I couldn't stand to be in a Pharmacy selling pills. My parents are not too upset however since I have been awarded the l'Ordre de Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.


Can you explain the show's title: What the Day Owes the Night?

it's the name of a novel of Yasmina Khadra, however the book didn't inspired me at all. For this project I wanted to make light in the darkness of my history and the only thing I can tell you is that the piece couldn't have another name. However, there are a lot of connections I can't explain between the book and my real life. The hero of the book is chemist [a doctor], I am chemist. My parents were from the same place in Algeria (Oran), the words my father uses to describe his mother are exactly the same as those used in the novel.


Why only use male dancers? A lot of reviews talk about how sexy this show is—is that on purpose?

I organized a casting in Algiers in October 2009. I met 250 dancers—249 male dancers and 1 girl. I used to work with male and female dancers, but for this project I had no other choice. But these 12 dancers, I like to call [them] my found brothers. There is a choreographic alchemy I can't explain.

Most of the dancers I met had a very good level in dance, especially in hip-hop (Breakdance) and Capoeira. There are no dance schools in Algeria. Most of the dancers learnt how to dance by themselves, thanks to video or through internet. They train outside, in beaches, on courtyards, in the streets.

How did your Algerian roots influence this show?

The first reason I went to Algeria is because I learnt when I was 25 that I had Algerian roots. I went to Algeria to make light in my dark (because unknown) history. For this project…I wanted to make the day in the night of my past. I had to give life to my orientalist dreams, and I had to do it with dance. I had to do it with dancers from Algeria using their specific skills.

The youth of Algeria is like that, full of power, full of dreams also… To perform in the United States is a dream that became true.

Tag(s) : #Culture

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