Ronen Koresh interview: Dancing from Israel to U.S.

The Koresh Dance Company performed in the Wadsworth Auditorium this past Friday evening. The Lamron spoke with the company's founder and artistic director Ronen Koresh. Koresh, a native of Israel and former soldier in the Israeli Army, traveled to America in his pursuit of a career in dance. He soon began teaching at the university level and opened his own dance studio. With the help of family and friends, the studio grew into the company it is today. The Philadelphia-based Koresh Dance Company has toured all over the world, including throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He is an extremely passionate and intense individual who has adeep understanding of what he does.

The Lamron: How did you originally become involved in dance when living in Israel?

Ronen Koresh: Well, I started dancing when I was 10 years old. In Israel, folk dance is very popular. Everyone does folk dance. It's kind of a social thing. So I'd go every Thursday with my friends and socialize and dance. That was the beginning of it. And then later on, I started actually disco dancing and discovered that I was very good. I suppose everybody thought I was very good. I was entering competitions and was getting a lot of awards. Until a choreographer heard about me and said, "I heard you can dance. Do you want to take class?" And I said, "Hell no, I don't need no class." My cousin was there and he said, "What, you're afraid you'll find out you really can't dance?" I said, "Yeah, okay, I'll try it," and I went to class. It felt really, really good. I felt that it was something that I could do very well. I felt, suddenly, all this confidence. I was a kid. I was 13 years old, and I knew that it was what I wanted to do.

The Lamron: How strict was the Israeli army in allowing you to pursue dancing?

RK: Oh, it's very strict. You have to be very, very talented. It's like here they give privileges to sports. So they have that in Israel. They're very cultured, very interested in that. So after a lot of arguments with them, they recognized my talent and allowed me to go every day to class. I would climb a fence and run to the highway every day. And I'd hitchhike all the way to Tel Aviv cause there's no way to get there. It would take me three hours to get there by regular transportation. Back then it was not very good. Sometimes I would be late and take class with my uniform and ballet slippers. It was tough. But it was something I wanted to do. Then I discovered [choreographer] Alvin Aily. I saw [his company] in Israel and I wanted to dance for them. So right after the army I bought a ticket, my mom helped me, and I flew to New York. I studied with Aily for a year. That's the biggest company in the world today.

The Lamron: What do you look for in auditions? What sort of background do your dancers have by the time they come to you?

RK: Well I expect them to be very well-trained. I expect them to have training in a lot of different forms of dance. My company is not just ballet or just modern or just jazz. We do everything. The more training they have in different styles, for me it's better cause I can use them more. They need to be very professional. They need to be over 21, I prefer. I prefer that they are mature and responsible. I would hope that they are very passionate about what they do. This time I'm looking for primarily men, but I always look also at the women that come in cause you never know. Somebody leaves, I have a waiting list for people.

The Lamron: What is the process of choreographing a show like? Where do you begin?

RK: I usually start with having particular music that intrigues me, that interests me. What I'm going to do with the music, I work by instincts. I'm not the kind of person who prepares. I don't like to prepare. I listen to the music, I know that's what I want to work with, and then I stop listening to it. Then I play it in a rehearsal. You create the vocabulary first. You create a language. To me, the music is like a place. It's a place, it's a time, it's an era. And in that place, people speak a certain way, they're dressed a certain way, they have a life. So I create a language for them. The movement is the vocabulary. Then we start creating the scenarios between them; what will happen in that place, what is going on. It's like a painter that throws paint on the canvas. It reveals itself to you. This is my process. I like it to reveal itself to me, and I try to stay as honest as I can. Then I look at it and it starts becoming very clear what it is. My artistic need is to expose how I am at a certain time. It's interesting to see what's going to come up. I try to put myself out there. But I use my dancers' interpretations too, not just my own. I throw the idea there but I let them also express themselves within the ideas and the limitations that I put on them. They need to be the characters. There are times when I have a clear idea of what I want, and that's the hardest thing to me. Because you're putting boundaries, you're putting limitations on yourself.The Lamron: Would you say that dance is something that appeals to a selective audience or is it something that people can appreciate even if they have no background in it?

RK: I think that if people allow themselves to go and watch with an open mind, I think that it appeals to every body. Not every dance, not every style of dance, or not every program is for everybody. I think that it is somewhat of an acquired and it's something that you need to openyour senses for. You need to stay open in order to understand it and get it because we're dealing with language, we're dealing with symbols. And in order for you to understand it, you have to know the language, you have to know the symbols. You have to see the signs. Once you understand it, then it's brilliant. And unless you know the language, you won't get it. It will be jumbled up in your head, and you will reject it. So yes, there is the type of dance where you need to understand somewhat of the language. But there's also the idea of pure physicality, athleticism, rhythms, musicality, sensuality, passion that exists on the stage and does not need any symbols or anything like that. I think that what I do is that I have works that are intricate and works that are very accessible and very physical. Those are things that any person, any person can relate to. Cause there's not one football player in the world, no basketball player in the world that can do any of the things that my dancers can do.