by Lewis J Whittington for The Dance Journal
Late in March, The Koresh Dance Company’s dancers were just back from winter touring and ensconced in their Philly studio off Rittenhouse Square working on choreographer Roni Koresh’s newest ballet, the two-part “Matters of the Heart” and “Inner Sun”. Both works will premiere later this month for the at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.
The troupe had been rehearsing all morning and now stretching, chatting and lounging around the floor in the softly lighted ballroom studio space. Koresh is in the corner pacing, then cues up the music on his computer and pumps up the sound as the troupe of ten dancers fan out over the floor for a fast-tempo section of the ballet. Koresh moves around the perimeter of the room, circling the dancers to view every angle of the ensemble and the collective synergism of the piece. The choreography has the unmistakable Koresh aesthetic – razor-sharp technique, athleticism, and intense solo work, but there is also a distinct lyricism, and even some classic balletic line laced in.
And that quality, Koresh explained, reflects a “return to my choreographic roots…without overthinking it,” he says during a pause. It is a surprise to hear Koresh say “I’m proud of this work already,” considering he routinely continues to refine or change his ballets right up to their opening run. “I’ve been thinking about this piece for a long time,” a chance, he said, “to go back to how I was choreographing 20 years ago.”
Channeling a time when it was all about “passion, love, and desire for the art form that drives you,” Koresh recalls earnestly “before… you know…you find out that, maybe you don’t know that much. Maybe you’re not clever or refined or sophisticated enough, so you keep trying new things to grow as an artist and of course, you observe how other choreographers are pushing the envelope.”
He observes that “You can only push so far without going back. I may know what I’m looking for …trying to always experiment, but question if I have I lost something along the way. There are many ways and methods to make a dance,” for this piece. “I even stopped trusting what I was making for my own body,” he admits “Of course you realize that you can’t really go back,” Koresh smiles “because you are in such a different place now.” Koresh is looking to “simplify things” in “Inner Sun” and noting “of course the technical aspects and dynamics are never that simple.”
Watching Koresh work with his dancers, you get the sense he knows exactly what he wants, without doubt, and with a laser beam, critical assessment of his own work and willingness to scrap something that he feels is not working. Koresh is creatively restless and game enough to deconstruct his own process and nothing is off the floor for consideration.
In addition to new choreography, orchestrating the successful Come Together festival and the company’s tight touring schedule, Koresh always has a number of initiatives in the works at any given time. He recently returned from Cuba, with plans to develop a collaborative project and cultural dance exchange with Cuban dancers and musicians.
Koresh has been working for many months with composer Jon Levis developing the music for “Inner Sun.” Levis is also the highly regarded studio accompanist at Jacob’s Pillow and here in Philly at the University of the Arts. Levis’ score is a mosaic of atmospheres, percussive drive, and Israeli folkloric expression. An exuberant section scored to Hassidic traditional music, Koresh choreographs with the traditional Mediterranean and Israeli folkloric dance bursting with ensemble esprit even in this unadorned studio setting. “Like some of my older works you remember, yes…” Koresh comments after the segment, “these are dances of the desert,” he says with a broad smile.
Also part of the soundscape is the philosophical poetry of Karl Mullen, who is also heard in key sections of the score. But Mullen’s voice is swallowed in the top down echo of this studio and after the dancers finish the section, Koresh pauses (“that echo drives me crazy,” he mumbles) and explains that the verse addresses our perilous time, but nodding approval to the dancers even at this stage, that they are really connected to the material and not just marking steps.
Koresh comments that he “usually doesn’t make political statements, but they are there, hidden underneath.” He notes that the company tours in what would be considered the reddest of red states, so it must be doubly satisfying that they have avid fans even in Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, Koresh’s main theme in “Matters of the Heart” involve various relationships between parents and children, siblings, friends and, of course, couples, both straight and gay. There is a duet with frequent partners Melissa Rector and Micah Geyer, “that I haven’t gotten to yet.” And there are several solos, Kevan Sullivan’s has a frenzied dance ostensibly about one’s journey of “growing into your name.” Melissa Rector has a solo too called ‘Forget Me Not.’
A central solo, in memoriam, danced by Micah Geyer, is dedicated in memory of former Koresh dancer-choreographer Michael Velez, a much-beloved colleague, teacher, and friend throughout the Philadelphia dance community and beyond.
The choreography for “Inner Sun” touches back to Koresh’s days as a young dancer and emerging choreographer in Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, founded by Martha Graham in 1964. Koresh’s process of tapping a more instinctual creative path of his past in these works may be a way to chart new choreographic horizons. It brings to mind one of Graham’s enduring credos, “What I do must be done in the sunlight of awareness.”
The rehearsal ends and Koresh is outside in front of his studio sneaking in a cigarette, as the mid-day sun was finally out and melting the snow on Rittenhouse St. from the nor’easter storm that blew through Philly the day before.
Koresh Dance Company Home Season premiere run performances of “Inner Sun” and “Matters of the Heart” April 26-29 at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, Philadelphia PA. For further information go to www.koreshdance.org