photo credit: contigophotosfilms
photo credit: contigophotosfilms

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“Aftershock,” a mesmerizing dance performance born in 2015 and brought back to life at the FringeArts Theater November 10-11, 2023,  transcends traditional narratives as it poignantly expresses Ronen Koresh’s journey from Israel to the United States. The returning spotlight of the show now focuses on the restaging of this evocative piece, reflecting Koresh’s emigration in the 1980s. As Koresh himself shares, “Israel is a huge part of my life—the love of life, passion, heat, music, food, and the complexity of racial and cultural integration.” His work, beautifully depicted in “Aftershock,” seamlessly intertwines Middle Eastern culture with the American experience. Born from culture shock, this piece shakes the core, offering a profound exploration of identity and artistic development.

Following the Youth Ensemble’s presentation of “Trigger,” Ronen initiated the show, stating that there is no specific message intended for the audience to grasp. Instead, the intention is for them to observe and derive their own meaning from the performance. The performance aims to evoke various emotions from the audience, much like modern art, encouraging diverse interpretations. 

He introduced the youth ensemble’s piece to set a dark and intimidating tone, emphasizing the timing’s alignment with the chaotic state of the world. While the inspiration behind the piece may influence the audience’s takeaway, it primarily serves as Ronen’s emotional display as he claims the United States and Philadelphia as his home. Dance becomes his outlet to convey these feelings and showcase the trials and lessons absorbed over the years.

“Aftershock” then graced the stage. Ronen commented on the distinctive seating arrangement in the highly slanted seats, expressing curiosity rather than dismay. This departure from the usual straightforward seating added an element of intimacy and dynamism to the staging, creating a unique experience for both the performers and the audience.

The performance left you breathless, compelling you to hold your breath in sheer awe. There was hardly a moment for contemplation; instead, you seamlessly flowed with the dancers as they executed the choreography with unwavering strength. Even during their brief pauses to catch a breath, you remained in anticipation, observing the rise and fall of their ribs – a powerful testament to their physicality.

The dancers showcased remarkable endurance, moving in harmony with the music’s beat and fueling its crescendo. The rhythmic sounds, accompanied by their intense expressions and the rhythmic percussion of hands and feet, created an immersive experience. Their resounding yells to the audience reverberated, shaking and captivating you in your seat. Engaging in circles and embracing one another, they portrayed a cycle of support. To describe the performance as merely “cathartic” is an understatement.

In complete synchrony, each dancer’s face told a unique story—from furrowed brows to wide eyes, tight squeezes to full let-gos. As legs soared high and bodies dipped low, Roni portrayed the highs and lows of life as an immigrant. The pride and claim to a life of hard work and change were palpable.

Visually, each section of the performance provided a fresh perspective, influenced by the unique seating arrangement. Dancers transitioned from a straight line close to the audience to small groups covering the stage’s space. Lighting evolved in an ombre of colors, and the costumes gradually shifted from earth tones to darker, bolder shades. These shifts not only unfolded in a performative manner but also mirrored the changes in one’s life when transitioning from one country to another.

 “Aftershock” succeeds in its mission to create an immersive experience, leaving the audience breathless and introspective. The performance is a testament to the power of dance as a universal language, allowing Ronen Koresh to weave his narrative and connect with audiences on a deeply emotional level.

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