TITAS presents French dance company CHK in a one-night-only performance of Sol Invictus at the Winspear Opera House on Jan. 19. (Photos by Nathalie Sternalski)
Not to be shallow here, but it is difficult to bypass the description of Compagnie Hervé Koubi (CHK) — at least for many gay male readers. Phrases like “masculine beyond belief,” “powerful” coupled with, well,male dancers are what make many “woof” at Scruff profiles or maybe subscribe to an OnlyFans. So when they takethestage
Friday night, Jan. 19, take a fan in case you get the vapors.
TITAS presents the French dance company for a one-night stand — err, one-night-only performance at the Winspear Opera House. And even TITAS Executive Director Charles Santos knows what’s up with CHK.
“There is a lot of eye candy here, yes,” Santos acknowledged.
And if that gets audiences in the door, all the better.
When Santos first saw CHK perform at a booking conference, he said the company came out with these “hulking, shirtless men” providing tea service. After that, he booked the company for a TITAS appearance (in a previous season). Whether that’s coincidence or not, who knows?
CHK returns to Dallas for TITAS this week, but don’t let the rippling muscles fool you. This is about far more than eye candy. CHK is bringing a moving new piece titled Sol Invictus. The show brings the energy of street and hip-hop dance into a classical frame with music by Swedish composer Mikael Karlsson.
In the beginning, the company’s founder, Hervé Koubi, began to dive into his ancestral roots in Algeria. There he would recruit ballet dancers, only to redirect his own mission.
“When he did the audition, 198 men showed up but they were all street dancers,” Santos said. “Hervé pivoted and began to build these pieces using their vocabulary within the structure of a dance show. In this work, you see how these pieces bring a mix of genres and these incredible movements onto the stage.”
As CHK has evolved since its inception more than 20 years ago, it has become an international cast, with dancers of all genders from beyond France and Algeria.
While Sol Invictus emits big energy, Santos added that Koubi creates a distinct gentleness between the dancers — particularly the male-presenting ones. With their base in Muslim culture, the men express touch and intimacy that stems from nothing more than friendship and family. But there is a bigger notion there.
“That’s the beautiful thing with Hervé. He brings this tenderness between these men, and it has nothing to do with orientation but everything to do with culture,” Santos said. “I love that he brings that forward and normalizes that.”
And while Koubi’s sentiment is about his heritage, Santos sees that as a way to perpetuate queer culture: “People seeing men or same-sex people being intimate is important. I am a married gay man, and I recognize the importance of using the term ‘husband,’ and I think seeing something like this can help to normalize those terms in a gay context.”
As noted eariler, TITAS has presented CHK before. Santos said that the choice to bring the company back to Dallas was an easy one.
“It’s all about artistic integrity, and they are that,” he said. “They are so great and unique, and I don’t know of another company presenting work like this. The decision was easy, and, while there is that eye candy factor, the work is gonna be great and entertaining.”