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Flash Review 2, 10-23:
One Night Only
Koresh and Brian Sanders Rock the Crowd
By Anne-Marie Mulgrew
Copyright 2000 Anne-Marie Mulgrew
PHILADELPHIA -- Koresh
Dance Company's fifth season sold-out Annenberg Center's Zellerbach
Theatre in a one-performance only engagement Saturday. The well-crafted
program of five works featured choreography by artistic director
Ronen Koresh and guest choreographer/dancer Brian Sanders for Koresh's
commanding ten-member company.
The evening opened with
"Exile," a stunning 30-minute interdisciplinary work for seven dancers,
featuring eye-catching scrim-size digital animation and projections
by Bill Bahmermann, haunting music by philosopher/composer Zenon
Feszczak, passionate choreography by Ronen Koresh, and exquisite
lighting design (throughout the evening) by Peter Jakubowski. I
appreciated the quiet balance and dynamic interplay between each
medium. There were sublime solo moments such as a bird flying or
dawn rising on the scrim, a singular melody reminiscent of a folk
song, dancers biting deeply into a lush extension or the painterly
use of lighting. All this made for a great evening out. It was sad
that there weren't more seats to accommodate all those that showed
"Exile"'s story takes
place in a war-torn village. Seven accomplished dancers reenact
a community displaced, weakened, strengthened and united by he act
of war. Koresh was born in Israel, where he trained in the Yemenite
folk tradition. He arrived in NYC to study at the Alvin Ailey American
Dance Theater and soon came to Philadelphia to perform as a lead
dancer with the popular jazz-based Waves Dance Company. These influences
are present in his choreography. In "Exile," I particularly enjoyed
the passages reflecting his folk roots. Koresh uses a circle to
connect, to confirm, and not to exclude. He exactly defines the
role of the group to the soloist Fang-Ju Chou, who wonderfully dances
the victim and the young girl in this demanding four-section work.
Koresh appears to work
with the music as a motivator for his movements and this marriage,
although very pleasing, led to a tad of predictability in the middle
sections. Bahmermann's vibrant mass media images of war, soldiers,
dawn, clouds, flags, smoke and birds fill the stage, informing the
audience about place, mood and time while juxtaposing Koresh's highly
emotional yet abstract movement language. It is a language marked
by sweeping turns, expansive jumps, high extensions, groupings,
canons and clean ensemble work. I enjoyed experiencing the intensity,
especially the way it culminates in contemplative silence (although
we in the audience still feel the impact of the visual and audio
imagery), as expressed by Chou's soft-edge solos.
This served as a reminder
perhaps that even in war, there is time for quiet, a time to be
alone, and being alone can be disconcerting. "Exile" digs into a
deep place. It simultaneously gives the popular culture audience
fast-paced visual-audio-kinetic-sensual imagery while allowing the
Koresh Dance Company to explore new artistic terrain.
Most satisfying was "Exile"'s
ending. Dancers enter a bare stage carrying suitcases, exiting in
solos and duets as the music continues into the intermission, leaving
me with a nagging thought that war is never over, we carry it within
ourselves, it is omnipresent.
by Brian Sanders, an incredibly talented Philadelphia-based dancer
who performs internationally with Momix, suggests aliens inhabiting
the human form. It begins with five compelling female dancers in
long trench-like coats draped on a mannequin base rod. At first
they are frozen. The suspense is mouth-watering as the dancers move
slowly to expose different body parts and short trunks and midriff
costumes. I savor Melissa Rector's dangling legs before she drops
off the structure onto the ground. The physical sense of suspension
heightens my expectation of what happens when they hit the earth.
Do they turn into mere walking talking mortals? What is the relationship/intention
of this ravenous female community? The driving music by Craig Armstrong
and David Lynch builds, keeping the audience on the edge of their
seats. The dancers cover space with hair and limbs flying, pushing
chausees, lovely arch-backed attitude turns. Rector hits a delightful
180-plus side lay-out. There are beautiful moments of partnering
and group lifts with occasional interactions back to the base. At
one point, my mind fantasizes, I want to see this piece as a solo.
The on-stage unison moments are not working for me. Just as I am
yearning for a change in the movement vocabulary (away from an abstract
technical modern base), Sanders delivers. The dancers return to
their opening places. They delightfully, individually twist, shake,
dangle, vibrate and take off as the lights dim -- sending me to
a new dimension.
Next on the program,
Sanders, wearing a short black unitard, goggles and black bathing
cap, performs his knockout, mesmerizing, crowd-pleasing solo "Underwater
Study #5." Sanders is a pro. He knows how to "work" the crowd. Like
a master illusionist, he creates the sensation of swimming in a
singular pool of light on a vertical axis. He butterflies (what
incredible inner thigh power), back strokes, and sneaks in a few
muscle-man poses -- rippling every muscle in his well chiseled physique,
sending the audience into roaring delight. Although I have seen
this piece several times, it continues to amaze me by its clarity,
undying commitment to the premise, fun message that incites the
audience and powerful execution.
It a hard act to follow!
Koresh succeeds with his in-your-face "Siblings," performed by Janine
Walter and Alexander E. Simon to Michael Nyman's punctuated music.
What ensues is a short, playful, cartwheeling piece about the changing
relationship between a sister (Walter) and the brother (Simon).
It's another war of sorts. They fight, push, shove, play, partner
one another, nudge, prod and finally hug, making the audience chuckle.
"The Fifth Season," the
closer, opens with the black leather-costumed company moving to
Daniel Bacon's thrusting score. The men (Manuel A. Jordan, Jae H.
Lim, Derrick Yanford and Simon) are bare-chested wearing tight long
pants. The women (Amy Elfers, Sarah Irwin, Melissa Kershner, Walter,
Rector and Chou) are in sleek camisole body suits. Koresh returns
to his jazz stomping ground with high energy, wide legs, contractions,
isolations, heel-held extensions, nose-kicking fan kicks that lunge
backwards into one-handed springs into the floor, soaring jumps
and turns, male-female strutting/stalking/aggression, all male/all
female sections and explosive entrances and exits. It's a battle
of the sexes (think Alvin Ailey meets Chorus Line) with Koresh's
star dancer, Rector, as reigning queen. She controls, orders and
freely takes from her obedient male corps. She's fearless as she
dives backwards to be caught by in a superb arabesque balance, tossed
overhead ending in her signature 180-plus lateral tilt. She uses,
abuses, thrills. These moments are balanced by a hot/cool duet with
Sarah Irwin and Jae H. Lim and "give-all" ensemble work. I question
the logic as to how these sections connect and Koresh's sometimes
choice of classroom jazz phrases and staging of the tight unison
ensemble sections. However, the audience doesn't seem to mind these
small points. Exhalted, they rise to their feet, giving the company
a thunderous ear-shattering standing ovation.
Koresh Dance Company
is on the move with engagements in Virginia, North Carolina, New
Jersey and New York.
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