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No regrets in Roni Koresh’s Promises

Roni Koreshphoto by Frank Bicking

by Lew Whittington for The Dance Journal

At rehearsal last week putting the finishing touches on his new dance piece ‘Promises I Never Meant To Keep,’ choreographer Roni Koresh was bleary eyed, wondering if the coffee he was drinking was from three days ago, but otherwise thoroughly engaged in refining moves on the dancers with just a week to go before performance. He was fueled by the energy of the dancers, visibly impressed that they were transferring all of the choreography he was giving them so process in a day.

The company just returned from their regular extensive touring year, during which Roni starting developing the new work while orchestrating tour programs, which typically are subject to his last minute changes. They were performing the wildly popular ‘Bolero’ “everywhere” Koresh said and putting together concerts that show Koresh‘s expanding choreographic template.

It is a time of transition and expansion for the Koresh Dance Company. In addition to converting the new space from a former gym to versatile and completely equipped network of dance studios, complete with a recording studio designed by executive director Alon Koresh. Roni Koresh continues as artistic director and bouncing between choreographing, teaching classes and expanding the company’s performance and aesthetic goals. On the to-do list includes hoping to increase his regular roster of ten dancers.

After the rehearsal, Koresh flopped down in his loft style office area above the studios, with the backdrop soundtrack of dance class kids clamoring downstairs. He laughingly complained about not having any sleep for six months, not to mention having to cancel too many dinner dates at the last minute.

Bolero –
photo by Alexander Iziliaev

Meanwhile, seasons of dance love

‘Promises’ is the last on a growing list of dance works for Koresh that break out of the dance- concert format. Its longer form can get hairy when he is adding choreography up to tech time. “Well, that‘s part of the process…I’m finding out myself. There is the show and the premise of the show. It is never really one thing,” Koresh observes.

‘Promises’ starts with the sounds of Louis Armstrong’s soothing classic ‘What a Wonderful World’ before getting into the dance drama, Koresh wants to convey in a simplified way even as his themes are about a young lover’s hopes, dreams, desires, goals, loves, almost loves and lost loves, all as they figure as universal themes in the choreographer’s dance life.

“What was important in the past and what it may mean to you now,” It gets personal “When I was young was I going to be a dancer, of course I was, was I going to do it the rest of my life? Then I was dancing because I met lots of women. But it became something much more for me too, dancing was such an emotional outlet, such therapy, such a growing experience.“

“The title is a section of the program, that has to do with ‘promises I never meant to keep,’ but is it positive or is it negative? what are promises to others, are they a bad thing or are they gifts, are they real or are they just a moment?” he said.

“I might meet you and think it’s just a fun thing, suddenly it’s a relationship. It was nothing and now it’s something; I want to show aspects of that. And different points of view within relationships, that people have,“ he said. Some of the dance will be autobiographical and also include “my view of other people’s relationships. Observing their struggles,” he said.

Most, if not all of Koresh’s work eventually circles around the love, physicality and sensual energy of relationships, and in this piece, he does so even more directly and it gets personal. Sexual intimacy is only part of it, it is about existential emotions.

Dancer Joe Cotler  – Photo by Frank Bicking

Never say never in dance

The Koresh dancers have a breakneck athletic signature to much of their work, but Koresh is more and more slowing down his pacing, so you can see more clarity and lyricism of his phrasing, as well as technical polish of the dancers.

Back in the studio the next morning, Koresh works through ‘Promises’ full ensemble sections and the four anchor duets. The dancers are already putting their acting skills to work in the pas de deuxs, a crucial element in Promises, as it aspires to tell inner truths about these relationships. One, danced by Fang-Ju Chou Gant and Kevan Sullivan has, Koresh explains, an ‘academic’ surface, but with dramatic subtext of someone hiding things. In contrast, a duet with Joe Cotler and Krista Montrone has a raw, souls and bodies bared intimacy.

Roni Koresh can be unblinkingly tough in the studio when he is not seeing what he wants. At one point for this session though, as he works through the full ensemble sections and the four anchor duets, he turns around from cueing music, interrupts his instruction and paused, and in a genuine expression of the work they’ve been doing, tells them how proud he is of them. .

Despite that large theme, Koresh is seeking to distill and simplify its narrative elements.“ I don’t try to be smarter or educate the audience, we just want to share what we do, the content is secondary, I don’t want to try to manipulate the audience,” he assures, adding “The audience’s connection with the dancers is what matters most,” he promises.

Promises I Never Meant To Keep

Performances May 2-4
Suzanne Roberts Theatre, Broad & Lombard Sts. Philadelphia, PA
Box Office: 215.985.0420

- Steven Weisz

Founder & Editor
While not a dancer himself, Weisz’s love for the arts and dance started as a child growing up in New York City. With parents, who were strong supporters of the arts and part of a community with an incredible array of notable artists in music, dance, theater and fine arts, Weisz’s access and affinity for the performing arts took root. Upon attending college in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania in the mid 70’s, Weisz started performing as a puppeteer, magician, juggler and fire eater as a means of supplementing his income. This soon grew in to what became Rainbow Promotions Inc., one of the largest entertainment and special events producers in the region. It was here that he began to promote and book dance for major events throughout the city. Many of the dancers he worked with in the early days of his company are now major choreographers in Philadelphia. At the same time, Weisz’s interest in computers and the early developments of what is now known as the Internet, led him to also start another company, Delaware Valley On Line, which became one of the first regional ISPs. It was this combination of event production, internet development and event marketing that led him to examine the use of the internet as a means to promote the arts. Dance continued to be a major interest for Weisz and in 2005 he founded PhiladelphiaDANCE.org as a major online resource to promote dance in the city. It was soon after that the Dance Journal was also founded as a way to provide an outlet for writing on a range of topics that encompass the ever growing and emerging dance community in the region. Weisz continues to run both PhiladelphiaDANCE and The Dance Journal on purely a voluntary basis with no income derived from any of his projects. He is also the Artistic Director of Graffito Works, a unique platform for dancers and performing artists to create site-specific work and to make it readily accessible to the public.

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