t heart, dance is all about expression, and Ronen “Roni” Koresh gets it. Over two decades, his jazz-infused yet modern Koresh Dance Company has earned a reputation for delivering powerhouse performances to sold-out venues nationally and abroad. For the first time in three years, the Philadelphia-based ensemble returns to the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater this weekend, kicking off Contemporary Dance Theater’s 2011-2012 Guest Artist Series.
Artistic Director Koresh, an Israeli native who immigrated to the U.S. in 1983, speaks eloquently about dance as language, using rich metaphors and underscoring the importance of arts for connecting people.
For the pair of local performances, the company will present Koresh’s new evening-length work, Sense of Human. But don’t think of it as “evening-length.” Why not?
“Because people are frightened,” Koresh says. “They think they’re going to see a movie.”
Better to think of it “like an umbrella holding many things that create a little city,” he says. The work consists of 10-15 smaller scenarios that could stand alone but comprise parts of the whole. It examines peoples’ everyday struggles, dreams or aspirations; what they go through in one week; or even in one day. Describing some parts as very funny and others as powerfully dramatic, Koresh says that every person in the audience will relate to some scenarios.
“I think the best way to connect to audiences is the ability to make them feel that they’re a part of what’s going on — that they can identify what’s going on and not feel alienated from what’s happening onstage. It’s an important ingredient for me.”
Likewise, the dancers need to connect to — and even embody — the material fully to refine their expression. They also must be versed in the language of dance.
For each new work, Koresh begins by coming up with a specific movement vocabulary and gets the dancers involved in the creation of the language, so to speak, from the start. Once they understand his vision, he asks them to create sentences on a given topic so they can use their own words as input. Then he asks questions to foster discussions of feelings around specific scenarios. In short, he gets them invested in the material, from the inside out.
“It is a study,” he says. “We write, we sit, we talk; we really kind of enjoy the idea. Because art is not a frivolous thing; it’s rooted in so much. It’s an expression and it has to be important. It has to be very well researched before you put it on the stage.”
Physically, Koresh calls his movement style “very organic” because it moves with the body. If a certain move feels uncomfortable or unnatural, he strives to change it or even throw it out.
“It works with you; it’s not against you,” he says.
Amazingly, he says that in his company’s 20-year history there’s never been an injury resulting from the work.
“I think that dancers are magicians of movement,” he says.
Although Koresh continually strives to elevate the standards and higher purpose of his work, he’s no stranger to struggles of artists.
“To do what I do and what most artists do, especially in the field of dance directing, you have a lot of people you have to cater to and take care of and raise money for, and you promised them,” he says. “You’re Moses, and you’re telling them, ‘I’ll take you to the promised land. You follow me, and you’ll get what you want.’ And you have to struggle because it’s the arts and it’s very difficult. In the end, it’s all worth it.”
After 20 years, what keeps him going?
“I feel like I just started,” he says, chuckling. He reveals that he recently celebrated his 50th birthday. Still, he says, “Really refining our expression and being able to distill a thought to its most powerful impact takes a lifetime.”
Here’s to another 20 years.
KORESH DANCE COMPANY performs Friday and Saturday at the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater. For tickets, call 513-621-ARTS.