Dance Review: SOL INVICTUS (Compagnie Hervé KOUBI at The Joyce Theater)

Post image for Dance Review: SOL INVICTUS (Compagnie Hervé KOUBI at The Joyce Theater)

by Debbie Abrahamson on January 26, 2024

in Dance,Theater-New York


A man perambulates around the stage, sunlight dancing on his bare chest or back, depending which way he faces. Then, the sun disappears, and in the plain, unnuanced light,  the rest of the dancers of Compagnie Hervé KOUBI – eighteen in total – begin: Flip. Handspring. Cartwheel. Flip. Handspring. Cartwheel. Repeat. The dancers perform these astonishing, gravity-defying moves with such graceful physicality and ease that for a brief moment, they almost become mundane. But when the warm, yellow sun reappears, spotlighting one dancer and then illuminating all the dancers, the flips, handsprings, and cartwheels become a poetic synthesis of merging bodies that transcends the physical.


Sol Invictus, the title of KOUBI’s latest work, means “unconquered sun” in Latin and was the sun God of the late Roman Empire. In striving towards a divine unity, this piece — now playing at The Joyce through Sunday — journeys through shards and shades of light and darkness, shared aloneness and isolated togetherness, and the distant past and near future.


A dancer spins alone in black and white light. A series of silhouetted dancers drift forward, mist rising behind them. A group of huddled dancers, limbs jutting out as if from one body, glides across the stage. In alternating rays of darkness and orange light, the group hoists up the queen and king, a tribal ritual that feels like a call for a new world order. When the sun bursts through, the dancers exchange playful gestures before returning to their tumbling with a new burst of unified energy and hopefulness. Then, in a direct confrontation with the sun, the dancers unfold and dance with the stage-sized golden material, letting it overshadow them, intertwine with them, and ending up under the dancers’ feet, only to be resurrected and taken off stage, as if to free the dancers and challenge them to bask in the togetherness of their own light.


KOUBI’s unique melange of hip-hop, capoeira, ballet, and modern dance that the talented performers showcase, combined with the beautifully thematic lighting design of Lionel Bouzonie and the moody array of music by Mikael Karlsson, Maxime Bodson, Steve Reich, and Beethoven often reach the sublime even if the sought after unity evades the work as a whole.


photos by Mélanie Lhôte / Nathamlie Sternalski / Véronique Chochon / François Tibaux

Sol Invictus
Compagnie Hervé KOUBI
The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue at West 19th Street
Thu-Sat 8pm; Sun 2pm
ends on January 28, 2024
for tickets ($12-$72), visit The Joyce

Leave a Comment