For Israeli-American dancer and choreographer Ronen (Roni) Koresh, dance isn’t only a question of flawless technique and precise execution, it’s a celebration of the human spirit. The founder of the Philadelphia-based Koresh Dance Company, Koresh, 57, will bring his internationally acclaimed ensemble to Owings Mills’ Gordon Center of Performing Arts on Feb. 16. The performance is part of the Baltimore County Dance Celebration which continues through March 8.
Born in the Israeli town of Yehud outside of Tel Aviv, Koresh was initially exposed to dance by his mother, an Israeli folk dance enthusiast. “She used to take me with her to folk dances. I was around 10 and I wasn’t very good. But I was good at street or party dancing,” recalled Koresh, who gained a reputation as a talented dancer in his community.
Koresh studied with two local choreographers before joining Martha Graham’s Batsheva 2 Dance Company at 16. Two years later, Koresh left Batsheba 2 to join the Israeli Defense Forces but continued to study dance when he was not on duty.
After completing his military service, Koresh left Israel to study with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. “I planned to be there for six months or a year, but one year became two, and three and four, and I was still here,” he said.
Koresh came to Philadelphia to dance with Shimon Braun’s Waves Jazz Dance Company in the mid-1980s. Simultaneously, he began teaching dance and creating repertoire for the students at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. “The students kept asking me, ‘where will I go [to dance when I graduate]; what will I do?'” said Koresh. “And there was nowhere to go. Dance companies were folding. Somehow the students instilled a guilt, a sense of responsibility in me. I decided to start a company in 1991.”
Koresh runs his company as well as a dance school and community outreach division with help from his brothers Alon, who is executive director, and Nir, who directs the school. He avoids classifications such as ballet, jazz or modern dance, instead teaching and performing a blend of dance styles that reflect his Middle Eastern roots, and his training with dancers and choreographers from diverse backgrounds.
“[Dance] is a good life, but it’s hard. It’s a work of passion. There isn’t financial reward, it’s something else — seeing people fulfill their dreams,” said Koresh. “Part of my mission is creating a place for dancers to make a living with dignity. They are all magnificently talented people who deserve to be recognized.”
When the Koresh Dance Company visits the Gordon Center of Performing Arts this month, they’ll perform “Inner Sun,” a full-length work that Koresh and the company premiered in Philadelphia in April 2018. The work that will make up the first act of the production is about the “inner sun in ourselves,” said Koresh. “Our spirit, our yearning… The second half is eclectic, lighthearted, humorous… And the last piece is Ravel’s ‘Bolero.’ It’s an incredible journey that makes you want to jump out of your seat. It will capture the hearts of those watching. My primary objective is to inspire and provoke thought.”
For more information and tickets, visit gordoncenter.com.