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Koresh Dance Company celebrated its 30th anniversary with a triumphant return to the stage. Combining the world premiere of TikVAH with highlights from the past, the program traced the company’s journey and the development of its signature style. Masterful dancing conveyed the unique vision of founder and artistic director Ronen “Roni” Koresh and the key contributions of assistant artistic director and dancer Melissa Rector.
Created during the pandemic, TikVAH addresses perseverance and innovation. Named for Petah Tikvah, the Israeli city in which Koresh was born, it means “opening for hope” in Hebrew. Though Koresh began planning TikVAH before Covid-19, the dance took on new meaning while the performing arts took a forced break. “For dancers not to dance is death,” Koresh told the audience before the show. But when it began, TikVAH made clear that Koresh Dance is thriving.
Koresh style, new directions
TikVAH honors the company’s past while incorporating new influences in movement and inspiration. To this end, Koresh collaborated with other artists in developing the choreography: Raphael Xavier, an alum of Rennie Harris Puremovement and practitioner of hip hop and breaking; and Yin Yue, the artistic director of YY Dance Company, who brought her background in Chinese classical and folk dance, as well as classical ballet. The result was exciting and fresh, maintaining the Koresh style while taking it in a new direction.
TikVAH also showcased the dancers’ vigor and skill, shining bright as ever and illuminated by Peter Jakubowski’s creative lighting design. The opening section portrayed the confusion, isolation, and despair that often precede hope as dancers jogged in place before suddenly falling to the floor, then drew their hands to their chests in a gesture reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Juliet and her “happy dagger.” Hope and togetherness returned in the next section, “Light at the End of the Tunnel,” set to music by poet and frequent Koresh collaborator Karl Mullen. Lighting in the wings suggested sunrise, and the dancers rose in its rays, moved together in a V formation, and laughed.
Wisely, TikVAH did not suggest full return to sunshine—rather, it paralleled the uneven road of progress and the new normal of a world changed by a devastating pandemic. Rector’s acting skills matched her prodigious dancing in the solo “Sideways,” an homage to grief that made symbolic use of an empty chair. She deftly captured living with loss as she sat gingerly on the chair, then turned it on its side and fit her body into it in a simulated embrace. Another section made innovative use of chairs that dancers used for sitting, leaning, crouching, and climbing. Other sequences included images of desperation and loss of control as dancers crawled on the floor, raised clasped hands in beseeching gestures, and bounced wildly on their feet. The final section, “Can’t Let Go,” featured some stellar partnered dancing before concluding with the image of couples embracing.
Worthy past, bright future
Eight excerpts from the company’s first three decades followed intermission. Works including “Standing in Tears” (2005) demonstrated the continuity of the company’s movement vocabulary and its roots in Yemenite folk dance and modern dance. One scene from “Negative Space” (2006) provided comic relief as Micah Geyer and Devon Larcher performed drunken antics. A vehicle for the dancers’ physical comedy, it also highlighted their remarkable control. In the second scene from “Negative Space,” Sarah Shaulis, Paige Devitt, and Michaela Harrington portrayed strong, saucy schoolgirls in pigtails and plaid skirts, kicking, spitting, and gesturing aggressively. Other highlights included two duets, the first of which featured Kevan Sullivan, Callie Hocter, a parasol, and a striking lift. In the second duet, Geyer and Rector glided through sensual spins and lifts punctuated by Rector’s high kicks.
Rector directs the Koresh Youth Ensemble, which has offered intensive training and performance opportunities to young dancers since 2008, and the evening began with a surprise performance by the ensemble. Samara Cohen, Destiny Cruz, Jordyn Hairston, Chloe Hally, Dalia Meisel, Daniella Place, Claire Powell, and Sarah Price shone in “Rise.” Choreographed by Rector, it was complex, demanding, and expertly performed. Had I not known otherwise, I would have mistaken the Youth Ensemble members for professional dancers.
This added to a captivating anniversary performance to confirm the company’s status as a Philadelphia treasure. Koresh’s choreography thoughtfully responds to the past and the future, while the company’s dancers bring it to life in striking and evocative ways. Emerging from the pandemic stronger than ever, Koresh Dance Company has a bright future ahead.
What, When, Where
TikVAH. Choreography by Ronen Koresh, Melissa Rector, Raphael Xavier, and Yin Yue. Koresh Dance Company. $35-$45. Sunday, October 21 through Wednesday, October, 24, 2021, at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia. (215) 751-0959 or www.koreshdance.org.
Masks and proof of Covid-19 vaccination were required to attend this event.
The Suzanne Roberts Theatre is a wheelchair-accessible venue with assisted listening devices available for all performances. Learn more on the venue’s accessibility page.
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