27 companies Come Together in dance festival

Gunnar Clark and Shadou Mintrone of Brian Sanders' Junk. BILL HEBERT
Gunnar Clark and Shadou Mintrone of Brian Sanders' Junk. BILL HEBERT
Posted: May 01, 2013

The Beatles' song "Come Together" was an anthem of odd juxtapositions: joo joo eyeballs, walrus gumboat. And the Suzanne Roberts Theatre beginning Thursday will be a forum for some odd dance pairings - hip-hop, gymnastics, aerial, ballet, jazz, and modern - when 27 Philadelphia dance companies perform in a nine-day festival conceived by choreographer Roni Koresh and called, appropriately, Come Together.

In residence at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, Koresh Dance Company - ranked by DanceUSA in the top 90 of the nation's 650 companies - is opening its spring season to 26 other troupes and, with a grant from PNC Bank, has added a second weekend. Each night, from Thursday through Sunday and May 8 to 12, Koresh will be one of at least four companies on stage, alternating a world premiere with last year's hit, Bolero.

"We produced some of these groups as a Philly showcase at APAP [a performing arts conference in New York City in January] and got the idea to do the same, only expanded, here," Koresh said. In many ways, Come Together feels like a potential successor to the Wilma Theater's admirable DanceBoom! festival, which ran for six years, starting in 2002.

At their studios at 2020 Chestnut St. last week, Koresh dancers rehearsed a section of the new piece, Come Together (what else?). Joe Cotlar, Micah Geyer, Asya Zlatina, and Jessica Daley danced a section called "Water Ceremony," both a cleansing and blessing in what is called a mikvah. Koresh's work often taps into the rich cultural heritage of his homeland, Israel; it can look like folk or praise dance or even jazz, but is always cloaked in a sensuality that derives from David and Bathsheba.

Koresh founded his company in 1991 after dancing with another Philadelphia company in the 1980s. While he had no difficulty finding his footing with audiences early on, he did not feel embraced by the dance community. But in the years since, he and his brothers Nir and Alon have become respected members, and with this festival they now seem almost avuncular.

"Yes, I felt like an outlier," Roni Koresh acknowledges. "I was cocky, sensuous. I wanted to make a splash, to connect with audiences. I didn't want to rely on grants, and, with Alon running the business of the company and Nir the business of the school, we've made it pretty far without as much private funding as other companies depend on. Because what do you do when it dries up?

"All my life I've worked to create jobs. I once told a funder that I pay my dancers $400 a week and he seemed appalled. How weird is that?" he asked. "These are the people who put my work out to the audience. When I started, I told those kids who danced for me, 'I'll take you to the Promised Land.' How can I let them down? They are my family, and I can only look as good as they make me look. I'd pay them 10 times more if I could."

Ken Metzner, who manages the business end of Kun-Yang Lin Dance Company, which performs on the May 9 program, speaks warmly of brother Alon Koresh, calling him "a very generous mentor."

"We meet for coffee to talk about the business of running a company. I've gotten valuable advice from him."

Lin's company, which has its home and school at Ninth and Wharton Streets in South Philadelphia, will dance One - immortal game, which premiered last month.

Among the ballet-based contemporary companies participating in Come Together are the Rock School, Ballet Fleming, and Nora Gibson Performance Project, which will do her Corollary to Fugue in G Minor to music by local composer Michael McDermott, a.k.a. Mikronesia. Norristown's Opus 1 Contemporary Dance will be new to Philadelphia audiences, as will Nickerson-Rossi Dance, just relocated from Los Angeles.

Carbon Dance Company is in the opening-night lineup, along with local favorites Rennie Harris PureMovement and Brian Sanders' Junk.

"This is an opportunity that came out of nowhere," said Carbon's artistic director, Meredith Rainey of the festival. "When the call came out over the PhiladelphiaDance.org listserve, I said I'm in, you don't have to ask me twice."

Koresh asked participants to suggest already-formed dances so they could curate the festival to insure each company's best work would be shown. Carbon Dance will perform Green and Rainey's lovely Through the Wake to a Richard Strauss lieder. Hip-hop dancer and choreographer Raphael Xavier performs with Brazilian b-boy and contemporary choreographer Eduardo Hermanson in an excerpt from Nick of Time to Xavier's music.

With this festival, these very different companies will gain exposure to audiences who don't always cross-attend, and they'll have a valuable takeaway. Said Roni Koresh, "We're giving each company a high-definition professional video, shot with three cameras, that they can use to promote themselves."

Next year, perhaps they'll do Come Together II in a new space. A former Koresh member has donated seed money to buy a building, and the brothers are looking at a historic building in the Rittenhouse Square area.

"We'll have to raise a lot of money for it, but I disagree with the acceptance of mediocrity," said Roni Koresh. "I want to put dance on a pedestal where it belongs, not in some out-of-the-way neighborhood loft that audiences can't even find. How inspiring is that?"

So how did this visionary go from outlier to insider?

"We all grew up. We took the journey alone and together. And that's how it's come together." Right now.

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