The Barbarian Nights

Evoking a million years of history through ballet

By In Dance 1 hout 4 min

The Barbarian Nights or the first mornings of the world

A French choreographer of Algerian descent, born to a Muslim mother and Jewish father, Hervé Koubi has long been fascinated by the historical coming together and coming apart of different groups, and the different vantage points from which history books have been written. In Les Nuits barbares, ou les premiers matins du monde (Barbarian Nights, or The First Mornings of the World), Koubi's choreography questions the notion of “barbarism” while recounting the cultural history of the Mediterranean and the cycles of invasion and assimilation imposed on its peoples from within and without.

Koubé's dancers—selected from a series of auditions in Algeria and Burkina Faso—are a marvel from start to finish, marrying lithe balletic leaps with explosive acrobatics. The blended dance styles are soundtracked by a mélange of musical influences, from Mozart and Wagner to traditional Algerian tunes, curated and arranged by Maxime Bodson. For Koubi, as we can see in his work, it is important not to elide stories of violence and oppression, but also to focus on the harmonies of history: “For over 3000 years our history has witnessed countless cultures whose differences have brought us together… It is this feeling of belonging [being part of the Mediterranean] that is much more ancient than the concept of nations.”

music by Mozart, Fauré, Wagner, and Bodson with traditional Algerian tunes