The only thing I hear dancers say about my work is that they are scared to death," said Ronen Koresh, choreographer and artistic director of the jazzy, Philadelphia-based Koresh Dance Company. His name and intensity may remind you of the Branch Davidian leader, but put David out of your head -- this guy expects your complete attention.
"The movement is very fast, very challenging, but you have to be emotional, to be real -- no acting," said Koresh, known for his "dizzyingly hard" movement combinations.
Born and raised in Israel, "Roni" Koresh caught the dance bug through his involvement in traditional Yemenite folk dancing, which he had been performing since age 12.
"I was always dancing," said Koresh, who is of African and Middle Eastern descent. "In Israel, everybody dances all the time."
But, to pursue a career in dance, Koresh moved to the Big Apple to study with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, whose performances in Israel had inspired him.
After his tenure with Ailey, Koresh became a member of Waves, a then-prominent, now-defunct jazz dance company in Philadelphia. In response to Waves' crowd-pleasing approach to dance, Koresh fleshed out his belief that the art form should explore the human condition, and not merely serve as flashy entertainment.
The repertoire of the Koresh Dance Company, now 8 years old, includes works on the Holocaust, racial discord and sexual politics -- pieces Koresh calls "classics" that explore timeless subjects.
Koresh is not one to ignore the value of some crowd-pleasing mechanisms, though. Costumes are routinely seductive and flashy; the lighting is often bold and dramatic. But, most distinctly, Koresh's pieces strive for displays of technical agility -- to an extreme. Split-second shifts in direction and impossibly specific timing -- often applied to the entire ensemble working in seemingly endless unison -- keep all eyes tuned in.
To produce the effect, Koresh relies on an ensemble of dancers whose technical prowess can match his puritanical ideology. Koresh fervently strives for technically "correct" dancing -- movement that emphasizes body placement, sometimes at the expense of individualistic expression.
As a sometimes-incongruous backdrop to his work, Koresh chooses jazz-fusion music, whose techno beat propels us along, even if we want to hang suspended in the moment.
"I think dance is such a wonderful art, and such a simple art, in that we all like to dance," explained Koresh. "Maybe we don't all dare to dance, but we all want to dance. My intention is to share [dance], to celebrate it with you."