Compagnie Herve Koubi:

Whirling dervishes catapult into the Maui Arts &?Cultural Center

Compagnie Herve Koubi’s “What the Day Owes to the Night.” Nelson Romero photo

On many occasions, I’ve observed several sports-centric, athletic men crippled with an exhaustion they have never known following a lengthy dance rehearsal. Those who are skilled in multitasking but have never danced on stage, have no idea how mind-numbing and physically taxing it can be to think about your choreography with only mere seconds to execute the next move while in the midst of completing the current dance step.

Compagnie Herve Koubi, who perform “What the Day Owes to the Night” next week, melds twirling motion similar to whirling dervishes, kickboxing and capoeira (a Brazilian martial art) with head spins, 15-foot trust falls, and the tossing of each in the air as well as double back and front flips. In “What the Day Owes to the Night,” 12 male dancers from Algeria and Burkina Faso will catapult off of one another, climb up each other and leap into space with the aid of what can only be described as human trampolines.

The French all-male dance company founder, Herve Koubi, has become one of Europe’s most important choreographers. Though he originally trained to become a pharmaceutical doctor, Koubi decided to change his career to dance. “I try to stay away from creating the spectacular just for the spectacle; but prefer to create something where the musicality of each dancer, of each body is in the service of the purpose of the performance,” says Koubi. Most of the dancers of Compagnie Herve Koubi have backgrounds in hip-hop and street dance, and the company’s movement style combines martial arts with urban and contemporary dance.

Koubi discovered at age 25, while at his father’s deathbed, that his ancestors were not from France, but Algeria. The revelation opened a door to Africa for him in a quest for his roots. While traveling in North Africa, Koubi auditioned 250 dancers, 249 of whom were male and mostly versed in hip hop. The current touring dance company still retains 12 of those original dancers. Koubi created this production over a three-year period. The name is taken from Yasmina Khadra’s 2010 novel “Ce Que le Jour Doit a la Nuit” (“What the Day Owes to the Night”), and is a coming of age tale set in 1930s Algeria. The performance features various genres of music ranging from Bach to traditional Sufi music, with its shirtless dancers dressed in flowing white skirts inspired by the romantic French paintings of Eugene Delacroix. Following the play’s American debut, The Washington Post called “What the Day Owes to the Night” a “stunning fusion of acrobatics, gymnastics, b-boying, modern dance and ballet.” The show has been on tour in the United States since 2013.

* Compagnie Herve Koubi’s “What the Day Owes to the Night.” Their final dance production of the season will be performed at 7:30 p.m. March 30 in the Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets range from $35 to $45 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.

The performers of Sneak Peek 2016 sing Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.” Jack Grace photo

*****

Rarely do I single out one-night-only theater, but last week’s performance of “Nogales: Storytellers in Cartel Country” was so exceptional that even in March, it should be considered as one of the top stage productions of 2017. Blending up-to-date information into the script, such as last week’s call to “boycott Hawaii,” author and performer Richard Montoya captivated the sparse McCoy Studio Theater crowd. Originally an improv comedy performer, Montoya combined big laughs in lampooning Sheriff Joe Arpaio with heartbreaking, detailed accounts from the murder of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.

The vastly talented ensemble of Presciliana Esparolini, Sara Haro, Stephen Narcho, Sean San Jose and Montoya bring this significant theater piece alive despite only a handful of props, commonplace costumes and a near bare stage. Powerful, in-their-own-words, reenactments of real citizens from both sides of the Nogales, N.M., border made “Nogales” not only uniquely bold and relevant, but also significantly unfiltered and touchable.

In his director’s note, San Jose shared, “Special gratitude must be paid to those who shared their lives and stories with the strangers who came from California. When one stands across from a bereaved grandmother of a dead teenage boy in her Nogales home or a human rights activist who can recount the lives of those who parished, then you stand in witness and one’s life can change.”

Esparolini’s performances as the grandmother of Rodriguez and as a young native girl from a nearby reservation were particularly memorable and moving. Montoya, at times a comedic tour-de-force, plays Sheriff Arpaio with a surreal cartoon quality, and though the villain of “Nogales,” his sarcasm and unlikely antics are quite likeable. A favorite moment of mine was an intoxicated Arpaio rocking out to Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” while guzzling a bottle of Cazadores tequila and pounding out a solo on a taiko drum.

The humor of “Nogales” might be a bit distracting at times, but it allowed the profoundly dark topic to become more palatable to a mainstream audience. Narcho, who grew up on a Native American reservation in Nogales, performs in silence for most of the play representing the memory of Rodriguez, who was shot 14 times from across the border and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol officer. In an evocative ending to the 90-minute one-act play, Narcho speaks: “My name is Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.”

*****

Next weekend Maui OnStage celebrates seven years of presenting “Sneak Peek.” The annual event is technically MOS’ only fundraiser of the year and its popularity has risen due to a loyal base of attendees who enjoy being the first to discover the five productions planned in the upcoming MOS theater season. Each season MOS presents three musicals, one comedy and one drama.

At the Sneak Peek event (in addition to all-inclusive sunset cocktails, four buffet stations by Catering from Soup to Nuts, and a hosted bar sponsored by Haliimaile Distilling Company), a beachfront dinner theater performance of multiple musical numbers, and comedic and dramatic scenes are always the evening’s highlight. Guests are given several hints via cleverly named cocktails, buffet station decor and costumed greeters in addition to the performances. The local entertainers scheduled to appear at this year’s event are Da Button, Laura Cole, Steven Dascoulias, Lia Krieg-DeSouza, Beth Garrow, Lee Garrow, Sara Jelley, Erin Kowalick, Lina Aiko Krueger, Leighanna Locke, Hoku Pavao Jones, Ricky Jones, Francis Tau’a, David Tuttle, Robert E. Wills, Stephen Webb, Felicia Chernicki-Wolf, Jason Wolf and Brett Wulfson.

* Join Maui OnStage for “Sneak Peek: Broadway on the Beach.” The event takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. April 1 at the oceanfront Aloha Aku Inn in Kihei. Limited tickets remain for $150 per person. To purchase tickets call 244-8680 or order online at mauionstage.com.

This week

Cluck your brains out with the un-caged, untamed Free Range Comedy. “Thighs Matter” is the theme of the return of this award-winning improv group to Kihei. Madness and mayhem will reign as this talented troupe takes audience suggestions creating comedy right before your eyes.

* Performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Doors open at 7 p.m. and $10 tickets are available at the door or in advance at freerangecomedy.yapsody.com. $2 discounts are available with a “check-in” on Yelp or with a canned food donation to the Maui Food Bank.

Upcoming

Hawaii Opera Theatre presents “Three Decembers,” composed by Jake Heggie (“Moby Dick”) and Gene Scheer, based on the play, “Some Christmas Letters,” by Terrence McNally. Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade plays fictional Broadway star Madeline Mitchell, who is entering the twilight of both her career and life. The story is set over the course of three Decembers (1986, 1996 and 2006) and reveals hidden truths as all struggle to find their identities in life and as a family. Von Stade makes her Hawaii Opera Theatre debut in what the Houston Chronicle called “the role of a lifetime” for the opera legend.

* The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. April 1 in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Ten percent discounts are available for MACC members, and 50 percent discounts for both students with a valid student ID and children 12 and younger. Tickets range from $30 to $90 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at mauiarts.org.

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