Staying on his toes

Roni Koresh rejects the idea of having a dance 'style' because it leaves him free to work in many genres.

koresh dance 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
koresh dance 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
At first glance, Roni Koresh looks like a rock star. He is tall, wild-haired and effortlessly cool. However, the ease with which he moved around Studio B in The Suzanne Dellal Center gave him away immediately as a former dancer. Koresh sat at the front of the space, watching his company of 11 dancers rehearse sections from the two pieces they would perform during their tour here. Every few minutes, he commented on the execution, timing or spacing of the dances in a low, calm voice. At certain moments, Koresh rose from his chair to demonstrate the exact quality he wanted for certain movements. Surrounded by his fierce dancers, Koresh stole the show with the few, flawless steps he chose to execute. It was clear that his leadership over the group was absolute. The rehearsal ran smoothly, with the re laxed ease of a well-oiled machine. Born in Yehud, Koresh began dancing at an early age. "I've always liked getting people together and doing things. I didn't grow up rich," said Koresh, who is one of five children. "We had to create an environment where our childhood was exciting. For me, to gather people together and they can make something happen is so exciting. And I get to direct it. I just need an idea, a point, and we start going that way and suddenly you have something. Then you have a show. I always said, where there was nothing, there's something. That I love." As a teenager, he trained with Batsheva Dance Company. Upon finishing his military service, Koresh moved to New York City where trained with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. His dancing then took him down to Philadelphia, where he joined the legendary company Waves. He has remained in Philadelphia since, a city he inhabits with joy. "No one has to sell me on Philadelphia," he explained. "It's the most European city in The United States." Fifteen years ago, Koresh founded his company in central Philadelphia. It started out small, with one studio space and a few local performances each season. The past several years have brought the company increased success both at home and abroad. It upgraded its workspace and broadened its tour schedule. However, despite the booming dance scene in Israel and his roots in the country, the lovely members of Koresh Dance Company had not touched pointed foot to local stages until last week. "It's surreal. What I remember from Israel is me dancing. When I left I was a dancer. And now, 26 years later, I'm coming back on the other side," he explained over lunch after rehearsal. THIS YEAR, Koresh Dance Company added a youth company into the mix for promising high school-age dancers. All of these initiatives are a result of years of committed work, done not only by Koresh, but by a group of faithful supporters. Alon Koresh, Roni's brother, is the executive director. Melissa Ann Rector, who has been a star dancer for the company for more than a decade, is also the assistant artistic director. Keeping things running smoothly outside of the studio is Chairman of the Board Steve Lazin, who has joined the company for this climactic tour. After its performances here, the company and friends will continue on to Istanbul. Koresh was invited to Israel to take part in The Spring Festival in Rishon Lezion over this past weekend. The directors of the festival requested two pieces, Looking Back: The Music of the '40s and '50s and Theater of Public Secrets. The two works are not at all similar. One is jazzy and fun, the other serious and dramatic. Koresh prides himself on this versatility. "If you have a style you have a style, as in one style," he said. "I don't have a style. I do lots of different things." The company's repertoire, which includes over 50 pieces, ranges from neo-classical ballet to jazz to post-modern. Looking Back is on the lighter side of the company's works. The score consists of Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole. "It's a crowd-pleaser. It crosses boundaries. With Looking Back, most audiences are over 50. This is the music that they rocked on and they go bananas over it. It makes them feel significant because they look at these young, gorgeous men and women dancing contemporary dance to their music - and that means that their era is not forgotten. Their time, their music is still recognized as a living, breathing thing. Everybody thinks about the good times, but we leave it back there, behind us. If you bring it to the forefront it makes people feel empowered," said Koresh. Koresh speaks of his work with the company with warmth and passion. His goals as a choreographer are clear. "I don't know that the job of an artist is to inspire. The result is inspiration, maybe. I think what I try to do is to show people that I'm brave enough to stand there, sometimes looking really good, sometimes looking really stupid. But I dare to step out here and go 'there I am.' And hopefully people sitting in the audience will say, 'Wow. If he can do it, I can do it.'"