By Jay Harvey
Ronen Koresh’s wide range as a creative artist could perhaps be traced to a typical Israeli apartment building of the 1960s.
The founder and artistic director of Philadelphia’s Koresh Dance Company explains it this way: “My diversity to some degree is the result of the accumulation of so many experiences in Israel,” he said.
Koresh was born there 52 years ago.
“I grew up in a country where in one building with 12 apartments, you might have 12 different nationalities living there,” he said by phone last week from Philadelphia. “I’m a Yemenite Jew, and next door you might find Jews from Morocco or Tunisia or Iran. All those people eat different foods and listen to different music. As a child, you don’t pay attention to those differences, but they are carved into you: The way people dance and the way they party becomes a part of you.”
From the time he was turned on to dance as a boy, he has sought to express this diversity in staged dance.
His company biography identifies this stunning array of influences: “Graham technique, Luigi jazz, classical ballet, club dancing, military maneuvers and Israeli folk dance.”
It’s no wonder he’s reluctant to associate himself with a particular style.
“I don’t choreograph in one style,” he said. “Style is a limitation. Once you develop a style, you have to stick to it. Mine is constantly changing.”
The common thread of his choreography is simply who he is.
“There is a signature, and that is me – the intensity of it, the way I approach things,” Koresh said. “But I try to stay open-minded as much as I can. I will use anything to communicate.”
The centerpiece of the 10-person troupe’s program here is Koresh’s 2012 setting of Ravel’s “Bolero,” the famous orchestral showpiece with the hypnotic rhythms and repetitive theme. Having loved the piece since his youth, Koresh took his time deciding he was ready to add his version to many predecessors, dating back to the work’s 1928 premiere.
“I didn’t want it to be another sexy ‘Bolero,’ but one that would stand on its own. Mine is really different: I feel like a conductor with that music, like I’m conducting it in a childish way. So I took it to a place like a playground,” he said. “My dancers are not kids, but we can act in a way that’s childlike. It’s very mysterious, and it has a sense of humor to it, too.”