Last night at the Suzanne Roberts Theater, Koresh launched its 21st season with Trust. Choreographer Ronen Koresh explained that he loved the word “trust,” from the way it looks on the page to the way his dancers were able to carry the company through a last minute change in casting. “Art imitates life,” he remarked, and in this he was correct even if this particular slice of life meandered towards an uncertain conclusion.
The 14 dancers of the Koresh Youth Ensemble were tenacious as always. Their technique, like that of the Ensemble’s director, Koresh veteran Melissa Rector, was impeccable and it’s no surprise that these students end up accepted to dance programs all across the country. (Hence the title of the piece, Regroup; of the 14 dancers, nine were brand new.) But the work established a pattern that would be repeated throughout the evening: it was emotionally charged and brilliantly performed but something was missing.
The concert featured music from composers and artists ranging from Bach, Mozart and Beethoven to Rene Aubry, Two Fingers, Jonathan Bowles and Les Tambours du Bronx. The choreography was part Israeli folk dance, part waltz and even part Jitterbug but the movements seemed superimposed over the music. Sometimes it worked, such as in the tango-esque duet Beautiful performed by Rector and Micah Greyer in the second act. She unfolded her limbs like a praying mantis, striking here, darting there, arching her back over her partner’s knees. But in Waltz the motif fell flat. Dancers Joe Cotler and Alexis Viator gave a solid performance but their exaggerated pseudo-ballroom interactions read like a halfhearted pastiche, which was surprising given Koresh’s gift for comedy.
In Strings, the company partnered off and kick-ballchanged their way through a lighthearted lindy hop phrase. They shimmied and sugared across the musical phrasing, sometimes playing between meters but sometimes ignoring them completely. In other works, they stomped their feet and slapped their thighs, as though pure movement wasn’t enough to get their point across: they needed sound too.
The high point came unexpectedly in Moonlight, halfway through the second act. Six dancers formed a circle in stage. In the center, Eric Bean, Jr. circled his palm as if spinning an old record then dived to the opposite corner before shifting his weight from side to side. One by one, the remaining dancers began to repeat the phrase, some facing upstage, some on their knees. The result was simultaneously simple and complex, as if the dancers were individual machines operating in separate spheres yet somehow still connected.
The male quartet in Shout, the final piece of the evening was also impressive. Newcomer Robert Tyler joined Bean, Cotler and Geyer in an explosion of lifts and jumps performed in tight unison. It was powerful yet controlled: two must haves for trust.
Kat Richter is a freelance writer and teaching artist. She holds an MA in Dance Anthropology and is also the co-founder of The Lady Hoofers, Philadelphia’s only all-female tap company. Her work can be found at www.katrichter.com.