OzAsia review: What the Day Owes to the Night

French-Algerian choreographer Hervé Koubi’s What the Day Owes to the Night is an exhilarating, explosive performance by 12 men who dance, leap and lift like Olympic athletes.

Oct 23, 2019, updated Oct 23, 2019
Compagnie Hervé Koubi's performance fuses a range of dance styles. Photo: Nathalie Sternalski

Compagnie Hervé Koubi's performance fuses a range of dance styles. Photo: Nathalie Sternalski

For this OzAsia Festival show – inspired by a novel by Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra – Koubi has assembled a multinational troupe of performers, some of whom are self-taught street dancers who perform capoeira.

What the Day Owes to the Night begins with a group of men reaching to the sky. As they break apart, they each undertake a journey reflecting their personal styles of movement.

The men’s muscular torsos are bare, and their white, flowing pants give them an appearance of rugged, classical beauty like the ancient Greeks captured in statues. The stage images created by the dancers, complemented with soft lighting and a light stage floor, are picturesque and exquisitely positioned.

The music is also superb; never too loud or dominating yet always evoking the right mood for the scene. Occasionally, solo instruments with an Algerian flavour or African percussion enhance the ambiance, but for the climaxes there is rousing opera and orchestral music. Frenetic music and movement is followed by breath-taking moments of silence and stillness.

The performers are talented gymnasts. They build mountains with their bodies, then suddenly one leaps over the top, leaving the audience to marvel at their skill and athleticism, as well as the genius of the choreographer. They throw each other up horizontally, then lift one man vertically, gliding with him upstage where he is lowered and they all collapse in an image worthy of a Michelangelo artwork.

What the Day Owes to the Night. Photo: Nathalie Sternalski

The dancing styles are constantly varied, as ensemble members twirl on their heads or hands, glide across the floor, roll and tumble and then become more militaristic and menacing.

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Throughout the performance they remain bonded, together, as one. There is a tremendous sense of camaraderie and empathy, as if they understand the suffering in each other’s journey to discover themselves and their place in the world.

The dancing is continuous energy, driven by powerful masculinity that entertains, surprises, delights, and stirs the emotions and senses. What the Day Owes to the Night is a brilliant and inspirational performance by the multicultural Compagnie Hervé Koubi.

Compagnie Hervé Koubi is presenting the final performance of What the Day Owes to the Night at the Dunstan Playhouse tonight. The 2019 OzAsia Festival continues until November 3. Read all InDaily’s stories and reviews here.

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