5th Annual Koresh Come Together Festival Convenes (Part 2)

by Lewis J. Whittington for The Dance Journal

The Suzanne Roberts Theatre was almost full on Saturday, November 15, the fourth night of The Come Together Dance Festival.  Artistic Director, Roni Koresh in his comments before the concert was effusive in his thanks to the Koresh staff, festival funders who came through with generous contributions to stage it, and in particular, family members who had traveled from Israel for the event. The line up of companies on this night was pointed-up Koresh’s focus on cross-cultural dance programming and bringing together various dance genres and their diverse artistic communities.

The concert opened with a stellar reprise by Kun-Yan Lin/Dancers of  Dreamscape and the show closed with more of Koresh’s Excerpts from his 2017 ballet Inner Sun.  In between, it was a raucous range of styles from the neo-classicism of Christopher Wheeldon, danced by a quartet Pennsylvania Ballet danseurs to the heavy metal glam by RIOULT Dance NY.  And speaking of fashionista watch, Roni Koresh was in his signature collection ‘desert’  leather field jacket over plaid tunic & endless scarf.

Here is a rundown of Festival highlights and other observations.


SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17

Ali Kenner Brodsky & Co. | The Most Depressing Piece…
Choreographer-dancer: Ali Kenner Brodsky
Choreographer-dancer, Ali Kenner Brodsky presented the solo The Most Depressing Piece…  where Brodsky was prone or kneeling during most of her performance that did indeed have the air of angst with a side of ennui.   Whether it was psychological or environmental, Brodsky drew you into the dramatic solo with what might have seemed like random, minimalist gestural dance, but was a thoughtful and crafted expressionism that Brodsky infused with singular presence.

Grace Dance Theatre 2 | Pathways Through Mania
Choreographer: Kareem B. Goodman
The nineteen, young African-American dancers of Grace Dance Theatre 2 rocked the house in Kareem B. Goodman’s Pathways Through Mania. It did indeed have a manic feel as an overpacked mosaic of contemporary styles.  While there was some tight unison work, there were passages that leaned too much on dance feats and sloppy transitional group movement. Ultimately, their dynamic force and ensemble esprit carried the piece.

Evalina Carbonell | Manic Papaya
Choreographer: Evalina Carbonell
More mania of a comic sort followed with a quartet of dancers who look like they were animated by Warner Bros. Looney Tune cartoon artists. Evalina Carbonell’s  Manic Papaya in which she characterizing exotica island songs was witty, effervescent and total funsies!

Pennsylvania Ballet | For Four
Choreographer: Christopher Wheeldon
Another quartet, from a different dance universe, followed with choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon’s For Four, danced by Pennsylvania Ballet’s principal, Arian Molina Soca along with soloists Zecheng Liang and Albert Gordon and corps de ballet member, Peter Weil.  Wheeldon’s original cast for this danseur showpiece included Angel Corella, at the time international star of American Ballet Theater, and currently director of Pennsylvania Ballet.  Scored to the Franz Schubert’s String quartet, Andante con moto, this requires a synergy between the dancers to match that of chamber musicians.  Soca, Laing, Gordon, and Weil prove a formidable foursome. Even with some erratic technical moments, they soared. Weil and Liang particularly exacting in their technical artistry, while Soca danced with a more lyrical line and Gordon with fiery abandon.

Maria Artim AerialDanceProductions | Moonlit Dreams
Choreographer-dancer Maria Artim
This piece was scored to cinematic music with a central main theme sampled from Rimsky-Korsokov’s Scheherazade. Moonlit Dreams was performed on a dance pole with a trapeze hoop at the top. Artim is an elegant aerialist, who doesn’t rely on spinning contortions and bodyscapes to dazzle. In a series of strung together feats, this piece was acrobatic but also equal parts a dreamy dance. Cirque du Soleil should take notice.

RIOULT Dance NY | Fire in the Sky
Choreographer: Pascal Rioult
Pascal Rioult’s Fire in the Sky is set to classic rock by Deep Purple and kicks off with a solo by a bare-chested Rioult veteran dancer, Michael Spencer Phillips in silver sequin tights, a mane of blond curls, who poses and flexes in a pool of light.  Just when things get perilously close to air guitar, an ensemble of dancers’ promenade on in with glittery cutaway tights and glitter garb. The troupe advances over the stage in lurching MTV video steps and later breaks out in frenzied flash dance.  It was an affectionate reconstruction of classic after-hours haunts and fevered dances past.  It was an extended playset, where a little went a long way. Compared to Rioult’s other repertory, this seemed a missed opportunity for something more dignified.  But those who felt that way would be in the minority because this audience went wild with lusty applause and shouts of approval.

 

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER  18

For the festival finale, Roni didn’t disappoint, dressing against type in a grey herringbone tweed, with a knobby Piccadilly sweater over a tartan shag shirt drooping out.  The evening kicked off with a reprise of Koresh’s Crash—Wall- Wet Stones, a trio of vignettes with its mix of communal turmoil and aggressive dance behavior. It is a dance drama that begins so gently with Melissa Rector performing a warmly caressing solo set to the Beatles classic, All You Need is Love.

There was a lot of dance love to go around to conclude the festival. The audience cheered all of the performers throughout the night.  Roni in his opening comments acknowledging the lighting design artistry and execution of Peter Jakubowski, whose sculpting light, hues, and shadows illuminated the choreography and the dancers to optimal effect. There was a most poignant moment as Roni Koresh honored his mother who was in attendance. “She was my first dance teacher,” Roni said affectionately “and I’m still learning the steps.”

Here are some moments from the closing night.


Mignolo Dance | translation Study No. 2
Choreographer: Charly Santagado
It is very brave for any dancemaker to even attempt to choreograph to the opening movement of Beethoven’s 5th. Those fateful opening bars are perhaps the most recognized piece of classical music in history.  Santagado makes the musicality the character of this piece.  Some of it looks silly, which is unavoidable considering the gravitas of Beethoven. There are arms swatting the air during BahbahbahbumBahbahbahbum, for instance, but much of it is well structured supple geometric choreography that made sense. It was danced with a distinct nobleness by this cast of seven, befitting the music.

Jim Bunting Dance Company | Soldier
Choreographer: Jim Bunting
The American WWI anthem Over There is heard in the distance as Katherine Corbett writhes on the floor expressing fear and anger. Her movement becomes convulsive as the music shifts to industrial percussion. She is flanked by three other dancers standing guard.  The themes of psychological stress and PTSD among soldiers and those who love them is a constant.  Bunting’s scenario remains overwrought and keeps hitting the same pitched battle note, which is exactly the point.

Tainan City Ballet |  Break & Countdown
Choreographer: Pei-Shan Lee

Break starts with what looks like a bullying scenario, with one dancer down on the ground and the others pushing her around. Then, they all start hurling themselves around the stage, running, collapsing, in waves of movement mayhem.  The theme of dance survival gets lost in its overwrought pitch. Tainan was back in the second half of the program with Countdown, choreographed with more assessable dance concepts and showcasing ensemble unison and technique.

MVmnt| Who, What, When, Where, and How?
Choreographers: Madison Manolis & Alison Vitale
This is a dance duel between Madison Manolis and Alison Vitale, choreographers who play out their process as a test of co-creative wills, seemingly in real time.  The dance sparring begins and sparks fly in the flinty chemistry between Manolis and Vitale as their creative minds meet, for the dance moment at least.

Kevan Sullivan and Dancers | Stalemate
Choreographer: Kevan Sullivan
Kevan Sullivan is a Koresh dancer and teacher. In Stalemate for six dancers, he exhibits his eye for stage composition and theatrical art, particularly in the transitional phrasing. However, Sullivan seems to retreat to a choreographic style that strikes as too derivative of Koresh and should trust his own creative voice more fully.

Project Moshen Dance Company | Silenced No More & Won’t Stand Down: excerpts from ‘WOMAN’
Choreographer: Kelli Moshen
This troupe of nine women, including choreographer Kelli Moshen, are all dressed in black dance togs and a swath of cloth over their mouths. They tear this off as they express a united j’accuse against sexual harassment and misogyny with a solidarity of mission. Moshen’s WOMEN is dance polemic and stirring at the same time.

Putty Dance Project | Change no. 19 She Speaks
Choreographer-dancer Lauren Putty White
Lauren Putty White’s acapella vocal and dance solo She Speaks is an intimate manifesto about black women navigating a patriarchal society, from the right for women to vote to the era of the #metoo movement.  White’s conveys the scope with poetic movement and economy that speaks volumes.

Maria A Konrad | Portraits
Choreographer: Maria A Konrad
When The Cure’s Pictures of You blared out, an ensemble of eight dancers were striking poses with hollowed out picture frames.  Portraits at first looked like a Milan runway show.  It was an entré act that unfolded as a movement portraiture that continued to come into focus with power and depth. The elegant modern ballet kept blooming and led to the second half of the full-on ensemble set to the ballad, Just Like Heaven.  Konrad brought together strong guest soloists from different companies to execute this stylish ballet.

Le Grand Koresh Come Together Festival Finale
The lights go to a deep pink that bathes the Koresh Dancers as they commune and sway to Edith Piaf singing La Vie En Rose. Then, there is a misted blackout, followed by the snare drum of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero, which pierces the dark as Roni Koresh’s masterpiece starts. It is witty and inventive, with captivating ideas that, like Ravel’s music, never loses its French mystique or sensuality. Even though the troupe looked a little erratic in the opening scene, they came together by the time Ravel’s muscled brass roared in, conjuring Koresh’s intoxicating world once again.

 

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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