A Twist of Israel in Pennsylvania

Ronen Koresh Celebrates 20 Years of Dance in Philadelphia

Emotional Creator: Choreographer Ronan Koresh is known for his demanding style. But as he approaches a milestone, he also chokes up when he sees talent in motion.
Pete Checchia
Emotional Creator: Choreographer Ronan Koresh is known for his demanding style. But as he approaches a milestone, he also chokes up when he sees talent in motion.

By Lisa Traiger

Published December 02, 2011, issue of December 09, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Ronen Koresh has tears in his eyes. Dancer Melissa Rector has just finished a run-through of a searing solo from Koresh’s “Theater of Public Secrets,” dancing both on and around a table. The cozy second-floor dance studio with the burgundy curtains is silent, the dozen onlookers — dancers and visitors — stunned by raw emotion made palpable. “Take five,” Koresh croaks, before he momentarily turns away.

Pete Checchia

The Israeli-born, Philadelphia-based Koresh is equally known and acclaimed for his intense, inventive choreography and his finely rehearsed dancers. His work is demanding physically, and even more so emotionally. Behind the scenes, he has a reputation for highly charged rehearsals with his 10-member Koresh Dance Company. Occasionally praise gushes forth; more frequently abrasive criticism. But when the tears come, they’re an acknowledgment that his handpicked dancers have realized his choreographic vision, and the resulting work soars.

On December 1, Koresh will celebrate his company’s 20th anniversary at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, in the heart of Philadelphia’s theater district. It is a fitting celebration for a choreographer who has changed the perception of dance in that city. The retrospective program features a selection of classic Koresh works and more recent choreography, including an excerpt from 2008’s poignant “Theater of Public Secrets.”

It’s an unexpected milestone for the once-shy youngster from Yehud, then a small town outside Tel Aviv. “I didn’t know how to act in a social gathering… at a party with disco dancing,” Koresh admits. So, his counselor pulled him aside and gave him a few dance pointers. It wasn’t as though he didn’t have the dance genes: His mother was an avid Israeli folk dancer, and Yemenite dances were a staple at family gatherings. In fact, Koresh told the Forward, “I think I inherited it from my grandfather. He was a great dancer.”

When the disco bug bit Israel, Koresh was ready — and as a teenager he appeared on popular TV dance shows and at festivals. A cousin double-dared him to take real dance classes, and he found his way to a studio that offered a then-in-vogue style of American jazz. Soon, Koresh was invited into the training ensemble of Batsheva Dance Company, Israel’s premiere modern dance troupe, which had early ties to American modern dance icon Martha Graham.

At 18, he convinced the army to allow him to serve in a support capacity close to home so he could continue to study dance in the afternoons and evenings. The entertainment units of the Israel Defense Forces — the only way Koresh could continue to dance — had mostly been disbanded, yet he still managed to perform during his army stint. “Then some of my friends decided to go to New York,” Koresh said. “I said I’ll go for six months or a year and come back and join Batsheva.” He enrolled as an international student at the famed Alvin Ailey studio, but realized there would be no place for him in the Ailey company. Visiting Philadelphia, he met and joined up with another Israeli dancer and choreographer, who worked there. Koresh set down roots in the city, dancing with Shimon Braun’s Waves Jazz Dance Company.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.