REVIEW: Koresh: Twenty Years Worth Celebrating

by Kat Richter, MA for The Dance Journal

In tattered jeans and one of his trademark scarves, Roni Koresh confessed to a full house at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on Thursday night that he had yet to see a full run through of his company’s twentieth anniversary performance.

“This is the most difficult thing I’ve even done in my life,” he explained.  “My dances are like my children, and how do you choose between your children?”

Given the length of the program (which included three full-length works and fourteen excerpts from the company’s repertoire) it would seem the Israeli-born choreographer still hadn’t decided which “children” he liked best.  And yet, somehow it worked.

This was for two reasons.  Firstly, because Koresh does relationships well.  Whether lampooning a break up to the familiar strains of Elvis and Ray Charles or musing upon the interconnectedness of two strangers through the air that they breathe, Koresh pushes the boundaries of the standard duet.  There’s the intricate partnering, yes, and the same passion you’d expect from a typical boy-meets-girl scenario, but there’s something else—something edgy yet familiar.

Secondly, the dancers held nothing back.  While Melissa Rector was right on point, proving that she’s still got it even after twenty years with the company, dancers Asya Zlatina and DuJuan “DJ” Smart, Jr. seemed to endow every movement—whether a simple nod of the head or a complicated petit allegro—with something extra.  The entire company attacked each and every piece, showing great versatility, stamina and agility.

The highlights of Koresh’s highlights were Route 66, Hidden Drives and Facing the Sun.  Interestingly, it was in Route 66 that Koresh’s particular brand of contemporary dance was the least contemporary.  Borrowing steps from several “vernacular” traditions, including tap and jazz, the men of the company shimmied their way through a hilarious rendition of Nat King Cole’s classic tune, complete with over the tops, barefooted pullbacks and jazz hands.

In Hidden Drives, the ten dancers seemed to double in number thanks to the black rolling suitcases they wheeled across, around and up off of the stage in perfect unison, leaving this particular reviewer wondering just how many black and blues the dancer’s must have incurred during the rehearsal process.

Visually, Hidden Drives was stunning but Facing the Sunwas the most poignant work of the night.  Dressed in drab browns and grays, the dancers crawled across the stage towards and unknown source of light, reaching, clutching, writhing, until one by one they fell dead to the ground.  Where did they come from?  Were they immigrants?  Refugees?  Occupiers facing eviction?  The point is that it didn’t matter.  Some things—whether we’re talking about resilience in the face of adversity or the work of one of Philadelphia’s most gifted choreographers— are timeless.

About Kat Richter

Kat Richter is a freelance writer and professor of both dance and cultural anthropology. She is also the co-founder and Artistic Director of The Lady Hoofers Tap Ensemble, Philadelphia's premiere all-female tap company. Her work has appeared in Glamour, Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher and The Journal of Research in Dance Education.

As a professional dancer, Richter began her apprenticeship with the New Jersey Tap Ensemble at the age of 9 and was promoted to Principal Dancer while still in high school. In 2005, she received a scholarship to Oxford University and returned to the UK in 2009. She holds a BA in Dance and History from Goucher College and an MA in Dance Anthropology from Roehampton University. A proud Philadelphia transplant, she blogs at www.fieldworkinstilettos.com

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