At the Suzanne Roberts Theatre last weekend, Koresh reprised his 2010 Sense of Human, with most of the dancers recast in different roles. It is a study in contrasts. A foot winks outside the curtain to Edith Piaf’s recording of “La Vie en Rose” and the curtain lifts onto the full company for the first two sections. More than half of the 11-member original cast remains – a tribute to Koresh’s retention and continuity, despite the whiplashing he puts them through at rehearsals.
Signs of the desert
When it was a young tyro company in Philadelphia, critics often dismissed Koresh Dance Company’s rapid-fire style as jazz dance. Israeli-born Roni Koresh, along with other dancers who went on to make names for themselves, had danced in Waves, a jazz-based company then considered “commercial.” Such snobbery existed among early ‘90s critics; Koresh was rarely considered review-worthy. When I first saw them in 1996, I saw the jazz hands and other assimilative choreography.
But I also saw signs of the desert, of desperation, of rough, violent, and warlike themes, of a constant sense of loss through anguished meetings and separations. They wore raggedy togs while dancing their often vaguely folksy or even Chasidic steps, and carried passion and eroticism in their duets. Sometimes they wore shiny black jackets over underwear. There was nothing glitzy about these themes, unlike Chicago or anything on Broadway.
Koresh was still trying to find his way into his own head and came away with a fusion of styles that ultimately fulfilled a niche in Philadelphia, not only for his supportive Jewish audiences but for all of us. My main complaint at the time was that the Koresh dancers moved too fast, like dervishes. I sometimes could not see the footwork, convulsions, or lifts clearly. I remarked that I’d like to see some contrasts, comedic or romantic.
Duets and threesomes
Melissa Rector and Micah Geyer reprised their original duet with a couple’s easy familiarity, languid vertical leg splits, and rapid directional changes. In a section called “Air,” Shannon Bramham and Robert Tyler in bright spring street clothes (all costuming by Britney Ann Cormack) do a springy Lindy-like dance. The “Time for Two” section placed Krista Montrone and Joe Cotlar in another dark and moody dance. In “Between the River and the Trees,” longtime Koresh star Fang Ju Chou Gant gets pushed, pulled, and carried aloft between Kevan Sullivan and Cotlar to street sounds by Philadelphia composer Karl Mullen. All the men in Koresh -- Cotlar, Geyer, Tyler, and Kevan Sullivan -- are titans of dance: towering, virile, powerful. But they can turn tender, gentle, and soulful as a butterfly’s wings.
Peter Jakubowski’s lighting sometimes seemed like a sunshower. Alternatively, he banded the stage with a low horizontal shadow that somehow gave the full company sections more intimacy and brought them closer in depth to the audience.
A new piece added for relative newcomer Andrea Romesser, called “Girl With a Hat,” was one of only two extended solos. A Bob-Fosse-style dance, it continued with Romesser all but tossing her top hat into the air. Before joining Koresh, Romesser trained with Israel’s Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company and Ohad Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company. Naharin’s GaGa discipline can be detected throughout Koresh’s choreography. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll see how the land of milk and honey and sorrow and tragedy informs the movement of its native choreographers. In Sense of Human, I saw angels, terrifyingly beautiful.