“Come Together” Meshed the Hybrid That Is Koresh Dance

Written By Guillermo Perez
June 20, 2017 at 7:30 PM

The multi-cultural Koresh Dance Company hit the stage keen on making contact. At the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater last Thursday night, the group’s four men and six women remained unreserved about engaging each other and their audience. While resolutely contemporary in hybrid moves to a wide range of music, artistic director and Israeli-native Ronen Koresh’s choreography shunned frosty calculations and ironic knowingness. Even when darkness fell on his dancers, they didn’t wallow in it or fail to light new fires.

The dancing here often went through long passages of unison, facing forward. The predominant synchronicity and dancer-to-viewer directness, however, rarely became monotonous and never felt like a cheap come-on. In part this was due to the show’s format, which gathered excerpts of varying lengths and moods from the Koresh repertoire under the title, “Come Together.” But far more telling, these dances offered a wealth of forceful invention: assorted squiggles from shoulders to arms, shot-out extensions, hot-footed hops, gruff strides balanced with delicate gestures. Throughout, the dancers seemed to live rather than just perform the choreography; their garb — designed by Koresh just a notch above plain practice clothes — underscored the quotidian look.

Early on, “Gates” poured Gadi Seri’s Jewish-Yemenite percussive music into a modern mold. The folkloric beats moved five couples toward forming a seemingly blessed circle. There’s a foundation, an ancient spirit in these dances, Koresh appeared to say, that can still give breath to the most up-to-date creations.

Even in “Moments,” when the accompaniment turned to clanking and wind-voiced echoes and the tone held tongue in cheek (overeager, the group appeared to audition for a way-too-entitled woman in a chair), a dancer could seize another with astounding emotion.

The three duets that followed mostly sobered up the atmosphere. Still, there were displays of cockiness and ingratiation that nodded toward our foolishness in relationships. “Joy” featured a trio of women taking pleasure contorting academic poses, and “Round the Block” had four men in black down on the floor, yet raising the roof with brawny thrusts.

The second half of the program certified the power of the full company. Here their staunch manner and right-on technique took on a musical gamut, from classical  (Henry Purcell for It’s Like Love) to Edith Piaf — La Vie en Rose, a mere amuse-bouche of a dance that, red-lit, still pulsed with yearning.

A culmination came with the closing “Bolero.” Koresh has taken his admiration for the Ravel composition, the looming structure it builds out of economic musical material, and found a physical projection for its unflagging variations. By different numbers, dancers emerged from a foggy background to dole out weighted as well swiftly propelled phrases, whether elegant or lumbering. The gradations of Peter Jakubowski’s lighting supported how the dancers’ guardedness grew into exuberance.

While showing off Koresh Dance Company so rousingly, the set up of this program as an anthology also validated the director-choreographer’s artistic biography. Here were the muscle isolations and snap-to-it articulations of his days as a jazz dancer, the intense ethos of Martha Graham, and the expansiveness of Alvin Ailey. Of course, Koresh’s Middle Eastern background — the not-so-distant drumming of his heartbeat — also brought bounty to the table. And the blend was very much his. He is a connoisseur of crossroads and multiculturalism, a pilgrim to be welcomed to all borderlands, including our own.

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