Ronen Koresh began making dances in Philadelphia long before it seemed all the cool choreographers were coming to the United States by way of a kibbutz. The Israeli arrived in New York in 1983, studied with Alvin Ailey and formed his own company in 1991. Saturday night, Koresh Dance finally made its District debut at the Lansburgh Theatre, co-presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society and CityDance.
Koresh’s movement, dominated by big flat-footed, crossover unison steps, has obvious Israeli folk influences. A debt to Martha Graham is clear, too, particularly in the fierce contractions that rock the dancers’ shoulders forward and back. (Koresh is a former member of Batsheva, the Israeli dance company Graham co-founded.) Trouble is, in the nearly three decades that Koresh has been living in Philadelphia, many other Israelis — among them Sharon Eyal and Zvi Gotheiner — have become known for working in a similar vernacular and have created dances that plumb greater depths when it comes to both choreography and concepts.
Saturday’s program featured 14 short Koresh works, plus an excerpt from a longer piece performed by CityDance students. Rapid-fire style kept the night moving but also gave it the air of a showcase rather than a thoughtfully constructed evening of contemporary dance. After opening with a series of folk-inspired ensemble dances, Koresh threw in a series of quirky duets, some of which were quite amusing, then closed out the first half with a serious angst-driven number that was performed periously close to a “Black Swan” parody.
The program flowed a bit better after intermission. Koresh recruits strong dancers and coaches them to move together despite their varied body types. Two petite women kept up with a massive Joe Cotler in an athletic trio; and Micah Geyer, a former tapper, and Melissa Rector, Koresh’s 40-something company veteran, executed a striking duet. The program closed with its most distinct work and, not coincidentally, its longest. Ravel’s iconic “Bolero” unspooled with the most variety of movement and pairings. The dancers crossed the stage prancing like Andalusian horses, and later grabbed partners to tango. Had “Bolero” been the only piece that closed with a thigh-slapping folk sequence, it would have been a stunner. Instead, “Bolero” provided a solid closing for a compilation album put out by a genre pioneer.
Ritzel is a freelance writer.