Fertile dance ground in Koresh Artist Showcase

by Lewis J Whittington for The Dance Journal | photo credit Julieanne Harris

The Koresh Showcase Series (winter edition) featuring dance works from a dozen companies, with three performances that were well attended even though it was otherwise a weekend of Philadelphia Eagles fever.  The cross-section of diverse Philadelphia dance troupes and choreographers presenting a range of contemporary genres by professional, aspiring, student and amateur dancers with one thing in common, passion for dance arts. Sure, several audience members were extended family, friends and lovers of the dancers, but there were also many showcase devotees who never miss the series.

Roni Koresh and his company, just back from performing at Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) and about to resume their tour schedule, was also on hand. The series commences four times a year in the very comfy lower level space of the company’s studios on Rittenhouse St. in Center City.   Some of the performances less polished than others, but most of these dancers were making the most of it, in the more informal, scaled down showcase atmosphere brings a sense of community esprit. One can sense the camaraderie and see why the showcase series was the impetus for the Koresh brothers to launch their expansive Come Together Dance Festival.

~Here is a survey review and a few memorable moments from January 21st Sunday Showcase  and among the strongest work presented definitively a reflection of our perilous times of the country.

Jim Bunting Dance Co. presented ‘Soldier’ (choreographer Jim Bunting) that unfolds as Allison Gira writhes on the floor as the scratchy recording of the World War I anthem ‘Over There’ has her crumbled on the floor with two militaristic figures behind her.  Passionately stoic intensity as the trio hurls themselves through lock step choreography, conveying the message, when you are in battle, you still might be going it alone.

Ma’at Works Dance Collective (chor. Ama Ma’at Gora) presented ‘The Lost Girls Are Black’ and stunned with its narrative about disappeared black and Latino teens.  Gora and Sura Swilley danced the somber duet to actual news voiceovers about the young victims whose killers harvested their organs.  Gora’s is a dance of fear, confusion and shock at these events. Those emotions are channeled within her paroxysms of dance- her limbs in a desperate rage in counterpoint with distinct foot patterns.  Passages of Africanist traditional dance, express order and Gora and Swilley interlock with unison phrases before they repeated collapse to the floor.

Long2 Dance Co.’s dance comedy ‘One Bar Closer’ (chor. Vanessa Long) parodied our cultural obsession with social media.  A quartet of millennials, cavort around the with mobiles ala a Gap ad, they selfies and preen and prance, become hypnotized by their screens that they only expressing anger, jealously until the devises get busted. Fun and unfussy, this foursome, would have liked to have seen more actual dance.

There was beatified angst in choreographer Matthew Soojian balletic lyricism of “Restoring Eden” though the jump cut excerpts, proved jarring for the five dancers in key moments, they soldiered on and caught expressive ensemble wing in the closing moments.

In other works, however fleeting, love was in the air though.

In choreographer Abigayle Cryderman’s ‘Subsequently,’ dancers Deja Hood and Reeves DeVoe in unison tumbling phrases dervish turn sequences that end in drops, some reverse patterns punctuate an otherwise tender lovers’ duet.

Choreographer Dillon Anthony Shifferly’ ‘Flying South’ a solo for partner Gina-Marie Shifferly then Dillon partnering her in with contemporary lithe balletics in his duet ‘Walking Through Winter.’

Tender moments also came in Grace Dance Theater 2’s “Kaleidoscope Perspective” (chor. Kevan Sullivan) with nine dancers.  The front half basic showdance ensemble unison work, but Sullivan shifts mid-way through with a central duet with more inventive precision as Antonio Chandler & Micah Gomez dance out a conflicted lover’s scenario with the other dancers in a tight, pulsing cluster in the background.

Power Moves Dance Company soloist Kai Rapelyea hypnotized the crowd with his virtuosic ‘The Heart of One’ a fusion of glide, float and wave hip-hop that Rapelyea punctuates indelibly with(neo)vogue moves. Lithe and muscular movement that made his body into kinetic sculpture (think the liquidity of the ballerina’s arms in Fokine’s ‘Swan’ channeled through the entire body.)  Among the most eloquent moments Rapelyea stands in a shaft of light that illuminates his spinal vertebrae and shoulder blades.  Rapelyea contraction and release of bones, joints and muscles brings to mind Martha Graham’s observation that the “arms are built from the back because we used to have wings.”

Koresh assistant director-choreographer Melissa Rector presented two short works ‘Sisterly Love’ and elegiac trio with expressive performances by Zara Manning, Abigail and Sophia Gronczewski.  Christine Morano Dance Co. danced Rector’s ‘Inside’ with Morano, Frankie Markocki and Cheryl Francaviglia enacting an intense relationship ménage, with wry understated dance drama.

Koresh Dance Company’s “Nova” (chor. Roni Koresh) ended the program with dancers Fang Ju Chou Gant, Andrea Romesser, Kevan Sullivan and Sarah Shaulis burning their home turf and exemplar of Koresh communal dance signatures.

About Lewis J. Whittington

Lewis Whittington is an arts journalist based in Philadelphia. He started writing professionally in the early 90s as a media consultant for an AIDS organizations and then as a theater and dance reviewer for the Philadelphia Gay News. Mr. Whittington has covered dance, theater, opera and classical music for the Philadelphia Inquirer and City Paper.

Mr. Whittington’s arts profiles, features, and stories have appeared in The Advocate, Dance International, Playbill, American Theatre, American Record Guide, The Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, EdgeMedia, and Philadelphia Dance Journal. Mr. Whittington has received two NEA awards for journalistic excellence.

In addition to interviews with choreographers, dancers, and artistic directors from every discipline, he has interviewed such music luminaries from Ned Rorem to Eartha Kitt. He has written extensively on gay culture and politics and is most proud of his interviews with such gay rights pioneers as Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings.

Mr. Whittington has participated on the poetry series Voice in Philadelphia and has written two (unpublished) books of poetry. He is currently finishing Beloved Infidels, a play about the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh. His editorials on GLBTQ activism, marriage equality, gay culture and social issues have appeared in Philadelphia Inquirer, City Paper, and The Advocate.

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