Friday, August 1, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Review: Koresh Dance Company

What a wonderful thing when a city's audience base sustains an arts organization for two decades or more, says critic Merilyn Jackson. 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.

Review: Koresh Dance Company

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.

About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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