REVIEW: Koresh Searches for Raw Emotion in Sense of Human

by Gary L. Day for The Dance Journal | photo by Frank Bicking

Philadelphia is somewhat deprived this season of work by the Koresh Dance Company, one of the city’s pre-eminent purveyors of modern dance. While the company has been keeping busy with a solid touring schedule and hosting its periodic showcases at its Rittenhouse Square venue, circumstance is allowing only one full season presentation at its Mainstage venue at the Suzanne Roberts Theater on Broad Street. For that program, Artistic Director Ronen Koresh has chosen to reprise his full-length 2010 masterwork, Sense of Human.

Admitting to a sense of deprivation of getting only one MainStage program this season, and no new work on top of that, there is no sense of deprivation at all at being treated to Sense of Human, a major work that displays Koresh at his most exciting and incisive.

Sense of Human is a collection of shorter pieces of diverse styles and moods, but like a collection of Harlan Ellison short stories, they all fit together as a cohesive whole even as each piece examines a different aspect of human emotion and identity.

The program with the titular piece called “Sense of Human,” using the full company, with original music by frequent Koresh collaborator Greg Smith (with Karl Mullen and Nick Kendall). It starts amusingly enough with a single foot protruding from under the lowered curtain. The curtain rises, revealing the entire company of dancers aligned as if frozen in a moment. Then, in response to the propulsive music, they burst into a flurry of anguished emotion, as if they are struggling against some weighty issue. Ronen Koresh’s choreography full of its trademark fluid strength and controlled dynamism, and as usual, Koresh knows how to handle the full company of dancers without movement or person feeling extraneous.

Any piece claiming to deal with human emotions has to examine couple dynamics via duets, and this piece has several, both as separate segments and inside longer full-company pieces. Koresh shows a sharply perceptive eye with the range and nuance go couple relationships, be it a couple struggling with aggressive emotions in a masterful segment called “Touch,” or a couple in a not entirely serious power struggle in “Time for Two.”

I particularly enjoyed two brief solo pieces, one being a fun venture into vintage vaudeville by dancer Andrea Romesser in “Girl with a Hat” that shows her having a bit of fun with—surprise!—a hat. The other was a more melodramatic piece featuring Casey McIntyre called “Go,” which reminded mostly of an addict struggling through cold turkey.

Each segment is stylistically distinct, but with all coming together to build a thematic whole. Koresh’s choreography is compelling throughout, and the dancers one and all are strong and charismatic. Additionally, the overall effectiveness of Sense of Human is enhanced by Peter Jakubowski’s dramatic lighting design.

Unfortunately, the weakest part of the program was the introductory offering by the Koresh Youth Ensemble called “Falling Into Place”—but let me hasten to add that “weak” is a relative term when being compared to a program as strong as Sense of Human. While the six young girls comprising the company aren’t quite up to the level of the main company, they nevertheless show solid potential. Melissa Rector’s choreography was strong in places, but it didn’t have an emotional through-line to bind the whole piece together. Further development of the piece could well correct that choreographic shortcoming.

But this is a minor shortcoming in an otherwise stellar and immensely emotionally satisfying presentation. In the end, Koresh didn’t shortchange our season by only giving us one mainstage program. With Sense of Human we are merely left wanting more.

The Koresh Dance Company’s presentation of Sense of Human plays through May 7 at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 South Broad Street (at Lombard). For box office information, call 215-985-0420, or visit philadelphiatheatrecompany.org.


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