by Lewis Whittington for The Dance Journal
Roni Koresh and his company got back into town last week from tour dates in Idaho and immediately began putting the final touches on Come Together, a dance festival that he, his brother Alon and the creative team at Koresh Dance have been envisioning for a long time. It launches with an ambitious two weeks of mixed bills by 27 participating companies at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.
Koresh wants to establish this event as an annual summer dance festival, which will showcase a deep field of diverse regional companies. The festival will eventually include national and international companies to perform as well. Three hi-def cameras will film all of the performances, as additional marketing tools for the festival and its contributors. The broad initiative by the Koresh organization seeks to provide resources for dancers, choreographers, designers and media networking.
The Zen of staging
Despite the size of the undertaking, Roni Koresh was almost serene on the eve of the festival opening last week. Working with his lighting designer Peter Jakubowski, the a piece he is personally presenting, which not coincidentally was an ensemble piece stripped of the choreographer’s signature intensity, that pulsed with camaraderie, whimsy and what even a casual observer would read as joyous.
During a pause Koresh explains that “yes, my festival pieces will have new stuff. We have a piece called Come Together, then The Chairs, and we are doing Bolero.”
“I made a classical program and, let’s say a more earthy program, that will be split up, which is always tricky,“ Koresh notes. Bolero is their electrifying ballet scored to Ravel’s Bolero and is by now a company signature.
The choreographer typically considers changes up until performance time, He explains that each of his pieces will involve newly choreographed sections, but by the time he moves from studio to stage, he has a very different persona, less ponderous and self- questioning.
In the theater, Koresh is making quick decisions on steps, props, lights and anything that needs his attention.
Working with Jakubowski, they discovered in the morning that they need to redo some erased technical data and had to completely reset two sections. “We have three to seven companies coming in and we tech them and have a show in the evening. It’s a little hairy,” Jakubowski said, but like Koresh, he is not panicked. Hearing these two men work out the lighting design is a study in concentrated, seasoned stagecraft.
Koresh as usual, has a laser assessment of every aspect of his dancers. After complementing them on the beauty of the section, he turns to orchestrating countless details as they come up the day before the festival opening, charging through the lobby he admits, “no matter how much you prepare, there is never enough time,” He dashes out to smoke.
The festival comes at a pivotal time for Koresh Dance Company. They have to move out of their longtime studios and are now negotiating the purchase of new, larger building on Rittenhouse Square, “We’re trying to raise money to purchase a building, and it will happen. This is a really nice black-box theater for the community, and larger studios to…” Roni starts to say, but …
The five-minute break turns into a mini-costuming conference with some dancers. Without skipping a beat Koresh’s turns his attention to his costume designer who is dropping off finished pieces and the choreographer takes a puff and says, “I’ll be right there baby.” He then tells his dancers how the some of the costumes will morph in one of the dances. When I asked how he stays so focused and calm about everything at once he just calmly smiles and says “I have to be.”
In the weeks leading into the festival, the choreographer said that everything actually has been pretty easy for him, all things considered, because his brother Alon and Koresh Assistant Artistic Director, Melissa Rector were taking care of a lot of a lot of organizing aspects. “We were on tour, Alon and his team really orchestrated everything. “ So many entrants were really fantastic and it’s amazing how many people responded. We are really trying to push Philadelphia dance up. Really put them on the map, expose them to different audiences.”
Dance Artist presenting
The day before the opening Alon Koresh, executive director of the company, was back and forth attending to last minute details with his 2 year old son with him, who was anxious to see what was happening with the lights onstage, but took a minute to talk about how it all came together.
“The festival basically is an extension from our studio showcase series, where we see really good and interesting talent, the smaller companies around. So we have been thinking, how can we take great performers who are ready to another step. So we decided the place for that was a festival that combines local dance, our school, and bring everything together. There are so many new companies, choreographers and dancers who need an outlet,“ Alon said, adding “I remember when we started, it was so hard to find a place to perform, and to book a place there was no time to organize and market a performance, everything that needs to be in place and the funding, of course.
“With the help and support of larger, established companies like ours, professional ones. We want to be able to create a stage for emerging artists. The idea has been received very well,” he said. “There was no artistic criteria, we wanted, honestly, to accommodate anybody who is ready and good enough to perform, we were open to anything- jazz, Indian, hip-hop, modern, ballet, we started narrowing it down, for various logistical, not necessarily artistic reasons, Roni and Melissa made the final 27 company choices.”
“We’ve been in a lot of festivals in different cities, through the years and here it was always off and on. We had DanceBoom! Then that stopped. So we thought to build on that idea. Koresh cites the Chicago Dance Festival as the model. “They mix local and national companies and a series of workshops and teaching opportunities. We want to concentrate local first, but then, bring names from the broader dance world,” he said.
He credited PNC Arts Alliance underwriting for getting them to this point, but because of all eventual running costs, they had to scale some of the initial scope first time out. There were certain constraints for the first festival, considerations at the theater to be worked out, but Alon said he was confident that they “ will be able to do other things in the next one. If the artists are as passionate about it as we are, why not. Also we wanted program choices that will compliment each other and the other goal is to mix up the audience. Audiences coming for hip-hop will be able to see jazz or classical things. We thought the idea of crossover audiences is very important to establish from the start,” he emphasized.