by Olivia Wood for The Dance Journal
This past Sunday, April 28, 2019, marked the close of Koresh Dance Company’s world premiere of artistic director Ronen Koresh’s most recent artistic triumph, La Danse. Not a single audience member remained seated as the dancers took their final bows in the Suzanne Roberts Theater.
With original compositions by John Levis and poetry/voice-over by Karl Mullen, Koresh produced a visceral, adrenaline-driven, and poignantly human body of work inspired by Henri Matisse’s paintings, specifically the titular piece, La Danse. During his introductory speech, Koresh explained that he was particularly inspired by the kinetic energy conveyed by dancing figures in the painting as well as the circular formation.
Indeed, circles became a note-worthy motif throughout the choreography. Mullen’s bewitching voice remarked on the circles of life and the circles of love as the dancers traced said circles in the space with their arms and lofty extensions, and also formed expansive circles in which they faced each other. Every dance that included the whole company featured such a circle at some point in the choreography. This choice created a feeling of community, which continued throughout the work.
Every community has its ups and downs, and one of the most striking aspects of the choreography for me as a viewer was the use of interpersonal relationships between the dancers. Imaginative partnering and well-directed moments of eye contact portrayed the making of friendships and romantic partnerships, rifts, and reconciliations. Another detail that deserves recognition is Koresh’s hat tip to social dances. Movements from tango, salsa, waltz, etc. offset Koresh’s signature voice and thereby emphasized the overarching themes of humanity and society and went even further to reflect and challenge certain characteristics of our contemporary American culture.
For instance, the traditional gender roles of social dance in which the men lead and women follow were present but later shaken in Clock Around the Sun, a piece in which dancer Fang-Ju Chou Gant commands a group of five men. The authority that she exudes remained unbridled during one of the penultimate pieces in which the previously harmonious circle of dancers became a prowling, menacing crowd that reflected the polemic, and at times, antagonistic nature of our society. Eventually, it is male dancer Devon Larcher, who cracks under the pressure and falls to the floor as the group looms over him shouting, “up!” One by one, the dancers shout the same thing to the audience. This jarring moment was followed by another even more striking. The dancers paused and as Mullen’s voice rang out saying, “the core did not hold,” and “my American dream,” they placed their hands over their hearts, alluding to the Pledge of Allegiance, and the lights flashed red, white, and blue, an image that I will not soon forget.
It is my personal opinion that one of the solemn duties of artists is to utilize their creativity for the betterment of this world. Through the acknowledgment of a problem, solutions may be found. The Book of Common Prayer reads, “in the midst of life, we are in death.” With La Danse, Koresh reminds us that in the midst of death, we are in life and we are in love, and urges us to: Wake UP! Grow UP! Keep UP! Stand UP! Wise UP! and to Look UP!