STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
You’re from there, but now you live here. As an immigrant in a new land, who are you? Who have you become? The Koresh Dance Company’s “Aftershock” explores those questions and more. The company premieres the work March 26 and 27 at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Philadelphia (an additional fundraiser will be held March 28).
Founder and choreographer Ronen (Roni) Koresh said it’s culture shock in hindsight.
“It’s an investigation. What is the new shape of person after changing and migrating to a new place?” he said. “It’s about finding out who you really are.”
He’s exploring how his emigration has impacted his artistic development and identity. Israel defines him, but his work is Middle Eastern culture coupled with American experience. Koresh was born and raised in Israel, and emigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s.
“I think it’s an accumulation of experiences,” Koresh said. “Something like that shakes your life, shakes your core, changes you, takes you to a different place. The land has changed. What stayed? What’s the new configuration that you have?
One thing that has remained is his ability to dance. His early training came from his mother, and, at age 11, he knew dancing was something he was good at. It also garnered him much attention.
“People would circle and watch me,” he said. “When you know you have that kind of power, you might as well use it in a good way.”
He joined Martha Graham’s Batsheva 2 Dance Company before enlisting for three years in the Israeli army. Then, in 1983, he moved to New York to study with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. After that, he performed with Shimon Braun’s Waves Jazz Dance Company in Philadelphia, and, in 1991, founded Koresh Dance Company (KDC)
KDC tours the country performing its mix of jazz, classical ballet, hip hop, and Israeli folk dance. Koresh has created more than 60 works, developing two or three new pieces annually, for his company and others. He also teaches at the University of the Arts (since 1986).
Dance is a way for him to take people on journeys.
“It’s a wonderful trip, going to places in your mind,” he said. “I’m hoping I’ll be able to take them through my journey and my thoughts about certain things – home, permanence, time, truth.”
Moscow-born Asya Zlatina, a dancer in the company, is taking the journey with him. She likes “Aftershock” because she had a similar experience – Zlatina came to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union at age 5 in 1992. She’s also Jewish.
Coming to a new country isn’t easy, she said. Everything was different, “from the culture, how you wear your clothes, to the way you talk to people,” she said. “Here, everybody’s so friendly and they say hi. There’s an emphasis on putting yourself forward. In Russia, you would never do that.”
Zlatina likes Koresh’s unique style, which incorporates traditional and contemporary techniques with folk dances.
“The work that we do is physically comfortable for my body,” she said. “There are so many expressive ways you can contort yourself.”
And those expressions are just the beginning of a dialogue, Koresh said.
“Really what I do is trigger. People will sit and watch. They’ll like it or not. They’ll be amused or not, offended or not, but they’ll start talking. I will have made them communicate with one another, to stop looking at their phones and Facebook, and to talk to one another,” he said. “We want people exchanging opinions, talking, remembering that we are not an image or a text. We are people. Discussion binds people together.”
Zlatina thinks Koresh is courageous.
“It’s so brave. It’s hard to have a business where you put your heart out and have people critique it,” she said. “It’s really magical. I admire people who can put themselves out there.”
Koresh does that, to express, to have an impact, to have significance, to have immortality. Mostly, he does so to be heard.
“It’s a beautiful way to deliver information – through dance,” he said. “And in live performance, it’s right there. You’re watching real people, real events, unfolding in real time. It’s powerful.”
Perhaps even as powerful as an “Aftershock.”
IF YOU GO
What: Koresh Dance Company’s “Aftershock”
When: 7:30 p.m. March 26; 8 p.m. March 27 (with a conversation with the artists following)
Where: Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad Street (Broad & Lombard), Philadelphia, PA 19146
Tickets: $35; seniors $30; students $25; discounts for groups available. Visit philadelphiatheatrecompany.org/tickets/buy-tickets/
Info.: Call 215-985-0420