Koresh Celebrates 25th Anniversary Season With Performances This Week
Twenty-five years ago, trained dancers were seeking an outlet for their performance artistry in Philadelphia. In 1991, this dearth inspired an Israeli instructor at the University of the Arts, Roni Koresh, to create Koresh Dance Company. He says his original vision — to create a vibrant, world-class dance troupe right here in Philadelphia — has far exceeded his expectations as the company approaches its Silver Anniversary World Performance, running this Thursday through Saturday, March 10th through 12th.
“There’s a lot more maturity to the company. The artistic level as risen tremendously, and the organization has grown remarkably,” Koresh said. “When we started, it was just an idea. Now, we have a home in Philadelphia, and the company is known all over the world.”
Koresh, who immigrated to the United States in 1983, describes himself as a “youngster who just wanted to dance,” pursuing performance opportunities past the Mediterranean. Founding a company was never a thought until he started receiving offers to teach.
Koresh felt a responsibility surfacing as his graduated students at the University of the Arts urged him to establish an outlet for their craft amid a scarcity of companies.
“I was flattered, but I was petrified at the same time. It’s a commitment for life. I didn’t even know how much of a commitment it was. I was young,” Koresh explains. “Life took over me. I allowed the environment, the culture, the place where I was to take over who I was as an individual. I wanted to be part of the community and I thought [starting the company] would be a good way to do it.”
With a small group of dancers, a few rented studio spaces and no budget, Koresh and his brothers, Alon and Nir, took a leap a faith.
Although he faced some financial and artistic obstacles over the past two-and-half decades, Koresh points to the “stubbornness” of his native culture as the reason why he never called it quits.
But another element of his endurance lies elsewhere: “You look at the next generation,” says Koresh. “You look at the eyes of the dancers and you say, ‘I can’t give up.’”
During a recent open rehearsal, company members expressed a defining characteristic of the Koresh Dance Company that they haven’t experienced in other dance troupes: namely, that the choreography works because of ceaseless collaboration with one another.
The rehearsal showcased segments from the company’s Silver Anniversary World Premier at the Suzzane Roberts Theatre from March 10th through 12th. From “Numbers” to “New Philosophy,” the celebratory performance encompasses an eclectic collection of contemporary pieces. One piece fuses a classic composition with nightclub beats.
Koresh partnered with renowned electronic hip-hop musician DJ Spooky (Paul Miller) to deconstruct Mozart’s Piano Concerto Number 23 for a 21st century audience. As a self-proclaimed Mozart lover, Koresh hopes that revamping the timeless work will capture a younger demographic.
While Koresh has noticed his choreography evolving since the start of the company, he says he’s never necessarily been struck by inspiration, but rather relies on influences.
“I don’t wait for inspiration at all,” he said. “What inspires me is that I have the trust in myself to do it. That’s the beauty of it: You start discovering, and the discovery becomes the artistic journey.”
Koresh’s residence in two countries an ocean apart paves the path for his artistic journey, too.
“The culture, the mannerisms, the life [in Israel] that is what affects a choreographer and an artist,” he said. “A lot of those experiences have been really very powerful and contributed to my creative process. [Living in two countries] has molded and defined who I am.”
As the company has gained international recognition, Koresh uses the acclaim to fuel that fundamental goal. Looking ahead to the next 25 years, he wants the organization to grow — to find stable financial footing in order to bring on more dancers. A flourishing arts scene is a goal he’d like to see achieved beyond the walls of his company, affecting all of the arts in Philadelphia.
“I have a responsibility to make sure this organization continues long after I am gone,” Koresh said. “The city should help make sure that organizations like Koresh, Philadanco, Pennsylvania Ballet, and many others don’t fizzle or disappear, or else we’re going be living in a desert of a culture.”