Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

November 11–18, 1999


Bump and Grind

Koresh Dance Company, The Drake Theater, Nov. 3

When the incomparable Melissa Rector and Shawn Layton strut out on stage to rollicking, bass-heavy club music by Brian Eno, you know something super-bad is about to happen. After some perfunctory handholding, lyrical sidestepping and light embraces they get down to some pretty sexy business: Layton twists Rector into knots around and through his legs. Then he allows one of her legs to snap free so she can crank it out to the side at a fantastic right angle; if ballet-legs were to tell time, then Rector’s extensions would always signal six o’clock. At three points (each more extreme than the last), Rector pulls away from Layton and backs up a couple of yards. Then, like a banshee, she runs and throws herself at Layton, who, reluctantly, catches her upside down. What makes this little duet (fittingly titled "Til’ Death Do Us Part") a tasty ball of choreographic fire is the extreme to which Koresh takes the movement in an all-out attempt to depict the ultimate bump and grind. Ronen Koresh is indeed at his best in dances like this, where male-female relationships play themselves out in sinister designs.

Ronen Koresh is indeed at his best in dances like this, where male-female relationships play themselves out in sinister designs. 

This same wonderfully lurid investigation of heterosexual coupling makes the last piece on the program, "Carousel" (to techno music by React 2 Rhythm, Steve Roach and Age of Love), far more than a clichéd, pseudo club dance. In one section Pi-Chi Young (striking just the right tone of passive-aggressiveness) moves from one man to the next, trying out new combinations of Koresh’s signature leg-work. There is a menacingly fetishistic quality about the way each man gazes at her before their turn comes to manipulate her body. "Carousel" is, in so many ways, a feminist’s nightmare. It begs the question, where is the line drawn between satirizing the relentless sex hounds that hang out in clubs and actually embodying the stereotypes? "Carousel" leaves no easy answers; just a whole lot of spit-fire ballet steps, high leg extensions and furious leg-locking partnering.

It’s easy to tell what movements Koresh adores: He loves to depict his female dancers in all their over-the-top balletic glory, legs splayed open at odd angles, feet mapping out space in furious geometrical patterns. His men — except the wonderfully natural Shawn Layton — are all brawn, chests swollen and cock-sure. These obsessions really work in his relationship-oriented dances. But in the more laid-back folk ritual of "Ancient Future," with music by Eric Vincent, these gender types detract from the quite wonderful premise of the dance. More than anything else, "Ancient Future" is about dancing like an egalitarian community. At one point, Koresh puts his early training in Yemenite folk dancing to good use, sending his dancers twirling in harmonious circular patterns. Best of all, this work (and several others on the program) demonstrates how successful working with Philadelphia-based composers can be.

The program also included a striking romantic dance by longtime company member Jim Bunting and gosh-darn-terrific gymnastics by Travis Mesman. Jae H. Lim, a new addition to the company, was nothing less than noble in "To Have and To Hold."

Jonathan David Jackson

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