By Merilyn Jackson
FOR THE INQUIRER
What a wonderful thing when a city’s audience base sustains an arts organization for two decades or more. Koresh Dance Company’s 20th anniversary year is upon us, and the company proved that it deserves this longevity with its fall season opener at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre Thursday evening. The program was simply a stunner with in-your-face, all-out dancing by the 10-member troupe.
I have observed in the pastthat Koresh’s programs are not usually particularly varied, but this pastiche of “agonizingly chosen” excerpts from his favorite works (as Roni Koresh expressed it before the show) gave the lie to that.
With his Israeli and jazz-based background, Koresh (who just turned 50) often uses socio-historical, folk, and biblical motifs with wit and playfulness, sensuality and menace. His 1992 Facing the Sun opens with a steam engine’s glaring headlight bearing down on the audience and the chug of a train. In this epic work the full company faces the menace of the Holocaust while heroically striving to remain committed to their community until one by one they are shot dead
If I have not said enough about Melissa Rector’s dancing over the years, here’s this: After 20 years with Koresh, she is still just about the best-trained dancer in the city. I don’t know how it’s possible to keep improving while other dancers would be declining, but she does. Even though Asya Zlatina, Alexis Viator, Shannon Bramham and Jessica Daley (each with the company four or more years) and newcomer Krista Montrone are younger, and equally athletic and beautiful, they are no match for Rector’s perfectly arched point and her ferocious fire to dance. Her demanding choreography for the Koresh Youth Ensemble, which opened the program with a work called Surge, shows that when, if ever, she slows down, we won’t see the last of her talent.
She soared, swooped, and scorched the stage in the 1992 Carousel, the first Koresh work she ever danced in. One gorgeous moment: The women sit open-legged astride the men’s thighs, facing them. Hands entwined, the men swirl them backward until their heads almost sweep the floor.
Another favorite of mine from 2005 was the excerpt from Standing in Tears, to Balkan Beat Box — wild and tribal. And Micah Geyer and Rector’s priceless send-up duet from 2009’s Evolution, to solemn Schubert music, had us all entranced. Eric Bean and Bramham were also breathtaking in an excerpt from Sense of Human (2010), as was a ravishing trio with Geyer, Montrone and Joseph Cotler from the same dance. Newcomer DJ Smart made up the minyan in this dance ensemble and acquitted himself well. Could we please have another 20 years of this?
8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St. Tickets: $25-$35. 215-985-0420 or www.koreshdance.org.