Dance: “Nass” at the Joyce
We loved many things about Morocco when we visited, pre-pandemic. But one of the best was the desert, and the Moroccan music we heard over a desert sunset one evening. While the songs and dances were traditional, their rhythms swept two 21st-century guys away.
But how do you capture this feeling in modern dance? Choreographer Fouad Boussouf, a Frenchman born in Morocco, has found a way with “Nass”, his full-length piece at the Joyce through October 23. The word nass means “people” in Arabic, but the title refers to Nass el Ghiwane, the 1970s North African band that served as the precursor to American hip-hop.
Seven male dancers from Boussouf’s company Massala begin the piece in shadow. But as the lights come up, they quickly morph into a tight-knit, acrobatic ensemble. The stage becomes a whirlwind of handstands, somersaults, breakdancing, hip-hop and circus dancing. It’s all performed to an hypnotic score by Roman Bestion, Marion Castor and Boussouf—music which mixes house, jazz, and snippets of the street sounds you hear in cities like Fes.
For 55 minutes, this all-male troupe, running on sheer adrenaline, never stops—they fake-box, hurl each other into the air, stomp their feet to the music, stomp their feet to no music, pull their sweaty shirts over their heads, pull them back on, chant, roar, then dance some more. The audience followed the performance with 10 minutes of roaring approval of their own.
“Nass” is the pluperfect kickoff to a brand new Joyce season.