Koresh Dance Company’s ‘evolution’

An exercise in world-building

Koresh Dance Company’s ev.o.lu.tion begins with one dancer, barely dressed, performing intricate floorwork: She crawls along the ground, picks herself up and throws herself down, and can’t seem to stop struggling. She moves as if she were boneless, as weak as a rag doll, away from a light cutting diagonally across the stage. Behind her stand nine dancers in black, square-shouldered suits with heads bowed.

Recalling a primal past. (Photo by Bill Hebert)

Ev.o.lu.tion is an exercise in world-building. The striking lighting design sets the stage as dancers emerge from dark backgrounds. The dancers move in washes of red or blue light or in the shadows cast by beams of light intersecting across the stage. At times, golden light sparsely illuminates the contours of their muscles, evoking the chiaroscuro of black-and-white photography. The world they inhabit is dramatic, both familiar and strange, and recalls a primal past while maintaining a futuristic edge. The journey there feels like one pulled from science fiction, and it puts you under a meditative spell.

As the performance continues, motions become sharper and fuller-bodied. They echo what has come before. The choreography integrates various styles of dance — from ballet and jazz to hip-hop and Latin dance — and gestures pulled from everyday life, such as skyward pointing, handshakes, and face scrubbing humanize the animalism suggested. There is much going on onstage, with dancers in the foreground and background, costumes frequently changing, and constantly shifting music, but nothing feels overwhelming. Instead, the complexity mirrors the complexities in evolutionary progress, and the audience is left to wonder how the artistic director could keep track of all these moving parts to orchestrate this work of textured cohesion.

A sense of urgency

Dancers seem to embody electricity with their wild yet controlled movements, and the chemistry among them is clear. As a result, the audience senses an urgency to the performance — in the rhythm of heavy beats, the dancers fly and cry out and gasp. The tension mounts, the audience is captivated, and it seems as though something, perhaps unnamable or intangible, is at stake.

Indeed, there is much at stake in ev.o.lu.tion: expression and being understood. “Dance is musical communication,” artistic director Ronen Koresh declared in the Q&A session after the Friday night performance. He explained that dance as a form of expression predates spoken language, fashion, etiquette, and religion. “The more we know, the more we have tools. The more tools we have, the more manipulative we become,” he said. “So how have we evolved, or are we, underneath, savage?”

Ev.o.lu.tion explores how to communicate frustration, desire, agony, ecstasy, longing, and identity through visceral expression in a way that’s limited by lack of tools, but also freed from them. No wonder the performance is emotionally charged, so moody in its aesthetics that it begs to be absorbed and, if not interpreted, then felt.

Ev.o.lu.tion is certainly inspired and inspiring, and it has the ability to speak without words. Whatever it’s saying surely resonates: Throughout the performance, a man several rows behind me would belt out “Yeah!” with more volume and frequency as time passed. After the show, the man, breathless, told the dancers, “I’ve had church. This has been a spiritual experience. You danced for me. You were my feet.”

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