The Koresh Dance Company has become a cultural force in Philadelphia. Founded by Israeli choreographer Ronen (affectionately known as Roni) Koresh in 1991, the company is celebrating its 20th year of performance. Koresh has carved out a niche for the company in the larger dance world for its fusion of dance styles: jazz, modern and ballet. While other modern companies have experimented with elaborate sets, costumes and props, Koresh’s choreographic works are known for their minimalism and cathartic passion, which, he believes, has kept audiences coming back season after season. The choreographer sat down with PW as the company was preparing to embark on yet another international tour to Spain and Guatemala.
So the company has been around for 20 years now. Does it feel like a milestone?
When you look back and you think of the amount of time that has passed, sure it feels significant. But on the other hand, time flies. And it’s just like yesterday that I started the company. When you’re doing something you love to do … you don’t really think about time. It is an accomplishment [though], to be around for that long.
What do you usually do in the off-season?
Primarily, I continue teaching. We do workshops, the dancers teach. For me, it’s time to start preparing for the next season. First, I take some time off for myself.
I imagine it’s doubly exhausting coming off an international tour ...
Yeah, it’s a lot of mental stress. I also teach at the University of the Arts at the same time. I hold a few jobs.
What do you enjoy most about the creative process?
The challenges. Can I do it? The most enjoyable thing is how much I learn about myself when things get tough: when the mind is blank. And that’s when something kicks in. You want to get to that point where your mind shuts off and your instincts kick in. Those moments are very powerful.
You tend to reject the idea of having a particular style. I was wondering why that is because when I see your work I feel like I can recognize it.
Rejecting something doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t possess it, too. [But] when you have a style, you limit yourself, because then you’re constantly falling into the same way … I think some [choreographers] do that to be remembered. I’m not concerned with that at all. I concern myself with now. That’s why I’m in search all the time for something new.
You collaborate a lot with your dancers ... give them a lot of freedom. Is that different from other choreographers?
There’s a lot of different ways of working with dancers. I enjoy allowing their creative process to be in my work. It gives the dancer an ownership over what it is that they do. I bring up the idea … we create a vocabulary for the work. And later on, some of the vocabulary has to come from them.They take responsibility for it. They will shine in a way that I could never make them shine. It’s them and their purity.
A lot of your work is influenced by personal experience. Can you point to any particular experience that influenced a dance that you choreographed?
[In] Theater of Public Secrets, I kind of opened doors inward into my experiences in love and romance. Some of it was painful, some of it was abusive some of it was wonderful. And to put it on the stage and see how people react … it was beautiful. They connected to it, because we all go through the same thing. [I also created a dance] called Sense of Human, which deals with a person’s thoughts every day before they go to sleep, when they wake up. So, it’s in that way that my experiences go into my work. It’s not stories.
Can you describe a favorite moment working with the company in the last 20 years?
I think probably the first production that we’ve ever done. We did it at the Warwick Hotel, which is now the Radisson. [And] instead of doing a conventional production [we had] a cocktail party before, then the show, then a dance party. I remember setting up, working like a maniac and going off to take a shower. And when I came back, there was a line that surrounded the whole building. I was shocked. We sold 900 tickets. And that enabled me to do the first production in the theater because we didn’t have money [previously]. So I think that was a really powerful moment, to see that there is audiences for dance in Philadelphia.
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PW's Summer Guide 2014