|By BOBBI BOOKER
|The seeds for the creative dance force known as the Koresh Dance Company began when its founder, Ronen Koresh, was a small boy growing up in an Israeli village.
An uncle took the shy 10-year-old to the side to demonstrate a few dance steps so the youngster could participate in a family gathering.
Those nascent steps unfurled the first essence of creativity that Koresh has harnessed into evolving from a noted street dancer to blossoming as a world-class choreographer and performer.
“The creative part was always there,” recalled Koresh. “But there was also a part of me that wanted to perform a lot.”
And perform he did. By his mid-teens, he was studying jazz and ballet at the Batsheva Dance Company, a Tel-Aviv group co-founded by legendary dancer Martha Graham.
At 17, he choreographed his first show featuring 40 female dancers in a performance before an audience of 3,000 people. By the time he was 18, he was drafted for compulsory military service and he’d never even worn jeans.
“Here is a country that is 15 years old. There were no lights in the streets. No cars. Nobody to call. Nothing. I had one pair until I was 20,” and Koresh laughed. “That’s why I have an obsession with jeans now.”
Koresh was determined to continue dancing, and after appealing to his officers, he was allowed to pursue his dancing, but only after he had completed his day’s work as a soldier.
After his discharge, Koresh headed straight for New York to study with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and then to Philadelphia to join the (now defunct) jazz dance company Waves.
In 1991, the Koresh Dance Company was founded and has since been lauded as “The Ailey II of Philadelphia,” by Dance magazine.
Koresh Dance Company’s performances feature an eclectic repertoire of over 50 works by Koresh, as well as guest artists such as Brian Sanders, formerly of Momix, Hector Vega and Donald Byrd.
The company’s critically acclaimed work attracts increasing audiences across the nation, and Koresh’s reputation for passion and outstanding technique regularly results in sold-out performances. The company presents bi-annual home season concerts, and performs on tour at various national festivals, performing arts centers, university performance venues and charity benefits.
Koresh Dance Company also teaches dance at all levels and offers free arts education to underserved youths in the region. Koresh says similar opportunities offered when he was a child created the dancer he was destined to become.
“I am a product of outreach myself,” he said. “I didn’t grow up with money. We grew up with nothing. People reached to me and when I was a kid (so) I didn’t pay for classes. They kind of pulled me out of the community into a world where maybe if I didn’t do what I did, I may have been a hoodlum. You never know.”
Company members give lecture-demonstrations in local public schools so the students can see a performance and talk to the dancers about their art and work. The students also participate by dancing in their own “master classes.”
“Talent is a powerful thing,” said Koresh. “It gives you the feeling of self-respect and self-esteem when you know that you possess inside you something that nobody else does, or not a lot of people do. It’s kind of a light that’s inside you. It’s a little light bulb inside your heart that just lights up because a lot of people live in darkness all around them. All they see are not very nice things all day and then there is this light bulb that gives you direction.”
When Koresh came to the region in the mid-1980s, he felt welcomed by the people and the potential.
Today, at age 46, he looks forward to expanding his vision of maintaining the artistic legacy Philadelphia is renowned for.
“There is something in Philadelphia that is so magnificent and so beautiful,” said Koresh, whose company is currently on a 24-city tour. “I think that we have a responsibility to make this city the best. The art and culture is the light and soul of the city. If we all continue to support it and put it on the map it will become a beam of light that will shine everywhere, and people are going to come to Philadelphia and would want to be a part of the culture in Philadelphia.”
The Koresh School of Dance, at 2020 Chestnut St., will host its 15th anniversary celebration Fall Bash next Saturday. The evening will include a special performance by the Koresh Dance Company. For more information, call (215) 751-0959 or visit www.koreshdance.org.=Originally Published in The Philadelphia Tribune on Sunday, October 7, 2007=