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Photo Credit: Contigo Photos + Films

Koresh Dance Company

Roni Koresh, Artistic Director

 La Danse

Suzanne Roberts Theatre, Philadelphia

April 25-28

Roni Koresh, choreographer

Jon Levis, composer

Karl Mullen, text

Costumes: Roni Koresh, Cari Shappell

Lighting Design: Peter Jakubowski

Choreographer Roni Koresh tripped the light fandango with his latest premiere La Danse, The Koresh Dance Company’s 2019 spring premiere at the Suzanne Roberts Theater. La Danse ostensibly inspired by the Henri Matisse’s ‘Five in the Nude’ impressionist painting, which Koresh discovered was part of the larger canvas of movement expressions.

La Danse’s 14 scenes are also more than the sum of its parts.  The choreographer’s last long-form work ‘Inner Sun’ was more cohesive, but with La Danse, even with plenty of his Koresh signature, Roni was tapping some new choreographic streams.

The full company opening titled ‘Glow’ has the five men and five women of the company paired off. The music a simmering salon tango.  The ensemble almost in classic tango salon tableau, first sharply silhouetted unison couples, with clean line, then sweeps over the stage, smoldering gazes between the couples in abrazzo variations.

The follow up is ‘Hold My Breath’ a stunning duet danced by Melissa Rector and Devon Larcher, this is one of Koresh’s most intimate and erotic duets.  Larcher a newer dancer with performing with sharp technique and Rector simply hypnotic in sequences with steely lift patterns and solo moves expressing the emotional dynamic of this dance.  

Other duets followed that showcased the strong partnering in various duets- Calie Hocter and Micah Geyer in ‘Put on the Red’, a very athletic Flashdance, with supple arc back positions and intricate lifts. And the very expressive and breathless paced ‘We Live and We Let’ danced by Kevan Sullivan and Sarah Shaulis. Joe Cotler’s dramatic solo ‘Without Thought’ has and improv energy with drama that let into his duet ‘Red Hand of Love’ with Paige Devitt.

Fang-ju Chu Gant commands also as she fandango’s through five potential male partners in ‘Dance Around the Sun’ and dances the guys around before choosing Joe Cotler.

‘Five in the Nude’ is the centerpiece on Act I. Koresh animates Matisse’s painting of the same name. Fang-Ju Chu Gant, Cali Hocter, Paige Devitt, Sarah Shaulis, and Melissa Rector in silky dresses, in fiery light, arms entwined, an earthbound, free dance ala Matisse. Koresh’s classicism and paganism set in motion, Koresh just letting the images flow with female mystique and powerful energy.

Nothing ponderous about ‘Sisters in the Trees’ which danced in Act two with the jazzy orchestral underscoring a trio Rector, Paige Devitt, and Hocter, in bright color 60s de la Renta-esque cocktail dresses, in a jaunty 60s dance camp ala Valley of the Dolls. 

Later, ‘Fingernails Drop in the Universe’ another comic trio with Paige Devitt in a black sequin mini as the Vegas-y femme fatale flanked by show boys Robert Tyler and Geyer.  It is pure tongue in cheeky Koresh as the men duke it out for her moves, but Devitt’s got them chasing their own tux tails.  She also clocks them more than once, before they even have a loser’s chance in hell with her.

Choreographically Koresh is expansive, as is the original music by frequent collaborator John Levis. Levis careens from industrial sound blocks to mystical percussive to Latin-French fusion melodies that cleared the stage for Koresh’s variations of sensual male-female partnering, always fertile ground for the choreographer. 

The ‘let’s dance’ lover theme though is disrupted at various times by allusions to a world in peril. The movement cued by Karl Mullen’s’ poetry as part of the soundtrack. Mullens’ beautifully narration though can cloy with sophomoric poetry. But his of Yeats’ ” center not hold” motif, lifted from ‘Yeats’ The Second Coming and a bit heavy handed on repeat, and especially in the same lines quoting Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance,’

Koresh is more ponderous in the full ensemble sections, as Levis’ score also has more darkly atmospheric implications during ‘The Hidden Room’ ‘Unrest’  and ‘American Dream.’ Movement canvases dancers emoting anger and angst. And give way to Koresh’s enduring motif of communal understanding and cathartic dance rituals. 

The finale ‘La Danse’ with the ensemble back in couple formation, the elegant tango lines, but with a less dreamy certainty, that this won’t be the last La Danse. 

Lighting designer Peter Jabubowski’s lighting design in La Danse was a dazzling partner for everyone onstage throughout the entire program-Sculpting dramatic crossbeams of light, creating enclaves of infinite perspective, bodies that are swallowed in darkness or smoldering fades that let the emotional truth of the dancer linger, This was a La Danse lightshow par excellance.


La Danse’s performances mark the end of a company era with veterans ( and much beloved) dancers  Fang-ju Chu Gant and Joe Cotler retiring from the company after many years as premier Koresh dancers.  Their artistry will indeed be missed.