One of the big surprises of the Holland Dance Festival 2020 was the virtuoso Ce que le jour doit à la nuit – the Dutch debut by the French-Algerian choreographer Hervé Koubi, which was received with great acclaim. While Koubi's personal search for his Algerian roots was the starting point of this overwhelming male choreography, in his latest production, Sol Invictus, he tackles more universal themes. Sol Invictus is a sizzling ode to the connecting power of dance, set against the insignificance of our human existence. For this new work, Koubi again selected – partly with the help of social media – a group of exceptionally talented dancers, this time very diverse in terms of background, appearance and skills, and coming from all over the world. Hip-hoppers, battle champions, but also dancers who have developed their own training and routine in the Amazon region or Siberia.
Fascination with the cosmos
In Sol Invictus, the fifteen dancers operate as a close-knit group, a group in which everyone bears responsibility not only for themselves but also for the others. The first thing Koubi let his dancers know is that he does not use counting in his choreography; with the result that they automatically have to be more focused on each other. Only during the rehearsal process did Koubi shed some light on his sources of inspiration for Sol Invictus. These stem from his fascination for the cosmos and for everything that lives. And it certainly his background, he studied pharmacology and clinical biology, plays a part. “Our insignificance and our loneliness in the cosmos are downright disheartening,” he says. “Only when we accept the challenge of living fully, of bringing light into our darkness ourselves, can our existence have meaning and give us fulfillment.” Dance is essential to him, even indispensable. “Dance creates vital energy, dance helps us face our fears – and therefore ourselves. In Sol Invictus we celebrate life and, as it were, poke fun at death while dancing.”
Music for dancing
The new production – which can be seen for a week at the famous Joyce Theater in New York immediately before the performances in our festival – is set to a combination of new compositions by Maxime Bodson and Mikael Karlsson and excerpts from Beethoven's 7th Symphony and Steve Reichs Four Sections. Music that, according to Koubi, mainly expresses hope and to which – in Karlsson's case – you “have to dance”. An important role is also reserved for the set design, in which a large golden canvas, as a symbol of the sun, occupies a central place. Koubi: “Sol Invictus, ‘the unconquered sun’, was not only the Roman god of the sun, but also the name of a ritual that took place during the annual Roman Midwinter festival. This ritual celebrated the passing of the darkest days and better, longer, more sunny days ahead. And that celebration, that hope, that is exactly what Sol Invictus is all about for me.”