Archive for October, 2015

By Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer

Posted: July 22, 2014


(CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)

The Koresh brothers – (from left) Nir, Roni, Alon – with their troupe rehearsing for the Come Together Festival.

With the Come Together Festival presenting five nights of dance and the city celebrating the annual Philadelphia Dance Day with free workshops, performances, and a massive dance party on Saturday, you won’t be able to miss dance in Philadelphia this week.

You can either sit through it or get up and do it, but why not do both?

For the festival, Koresh Dance Company is sharing one of its weeks at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre with an ingathering of regional companies, both well-established and upstarts. Choreographer Ronen (Roni) Koresh launched the festival last year with support from PNC Arts Alive.

Koresh emigrated from Israel in 1983, followed by his brothers Alon in 1989, and Nir in 1994. All three had served in the Israeli military, so you’d think anything they did after that would be a cakewalk. But starting Koresh Dance Company and School of Dance in Philadelphia in the early 1990s proved challenging.

The company opened on a Friday the 13th in 1991, and presented its next show a year later at the Warwick Hotel. “I built a stage in the ballroom. We had a cocktail hour hosted by WXPN’s David Dye and Channel 3’s Evening Magazine host Ray Murray, a show at 9 and a dance party till 2 a.m.,” Roni said while sipping wine at a sidewalk table at Twenty Manning recently.

“When I came onto the scene, I had to rely on audiences, not funding. It was flashy. It had to be – we had to satisfy the audiences. We were young and so were they.”

A year after that, their first show at the Mandell Theater had a packed audience and won a standing ovation. “But Nancy Goldner” – then The Inquirer’s dance critic – “tore us to shreds. That was the first shock,” he said. “I didn’t leave my apartment for three days, I was so embarrassed.”

Roni is Koresh’s artistic director, Alon serves as executive director, and Nir directs the Koresh School of Dance. Recently, they signed a deed to a beautiful building at 2002 Rittenhouse St. – a building with a dance history. Laura Keeler, late wife of director of Dance Celebration Randy Swartz, once owned it, and Roni got his start there in the ’80s jazz dance company Waves.

Today, Koresh Dance Company fills a respected niche in contemporary dance – sometimes with a jazzy edge, often with ethnic characteristics, and always hot and hip. As dance company in residence at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, it joins BalletX, Philadanco, and Pennsylvania Ballet on Broad Street, making Philadelphia the only U.S. city with four major companies dancing within a block of each other.

Koresh begins a 26-city tour in October that runs through next May and includes a festival in Belarus. “I like going on the road because I feel rewarded,” says Roni. “We’re lionized wherever we go, especially Melissa Rector, who’s danced with me since Day 1.”

The Come Together Festival includes mixed programs from Wednesday through Sunday, with Nora Gibson’s geometric ballet, Rennie Harris Puremovement hip-hop, and Brian Sanders’ Junk’s physical theater – among a total of 26 companies – sharing the stage. Sanders “creaks” around in Dancing Dead, which he remounted in suite form with support from the Swarthmore Project this summer. Koresh performs each night with excerpts from its spring premiere of Promises I Never Meant to Keep, Bolero, and excerpts of other works.

More highlights:

 Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers performs Be/Longing 2 on opening night. It created a chiaroscuro of light and dark, movement and stillness in spring when he premiered this work, which has been whittled down to a more concise form for the festival.

Raphael Xavier – hip-hop artist, photographer, filmmaker – returns this year to perform Still. “It’s a four-man piece about maturing as a dancer,” he says. At 43, he’s no aging b-boy, though. “I may not be able to do some of the things I could do when I was younger, so this is a kind of transitional exploration. The 23-year-olds I’m working with know how to move, but I slow down and ask them to just react to me.”

Alchemy Dance Company has been performing in small venues around town and shows Beggars and Choosers, “an explosive excerpt of 2013’s Follies,” to music by composer Jonathan Bowles.

Melissa Chisena of Chisena Danza solos in Breathe with percussionist Jonathan Cannon. “Breathing is a universal experience,” she says. “This dance is an exploration of breath.”

DanceSpora was formed in 2008 by Pennsylvania Ballet alum Heidi Cruz-Austin and David Austin, an accomplished house dancer who performed with Renee Harris Puremovement. Cruz-Austin wanted her Trenton-based company to look like contemporary ballet with house and jazz influences.

Danse4Nia Repertory Ensemble performs an excerpt from Falsely Accused to music by James Blake and choreographed by Itola Byrd. It’s a tribute to women unfairly or unjustly accused of crimes they did not commit.

Ballet Fleming presents an excerpt of a staple of its repertory, a lovely, lyrical work to American composer Paul Schoenfield’s Cafe Music.


Come Together Dance Festival Wednesday through Sunday at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St.

Full schedule and ticket information at

Philadelphia Dance Day

A schedule of events is at


David Zambrano of "Soul Project." (Photo: Anja Hitzenberger)

David Zambrano is the creator, choreographer, and ringmaster of “Soul Project,” which returns to Swarthmore College from the Fringe Festival. (Photo: Anja Hitzenberger)

Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer

Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2015, 3:01 AM

Soul Project, a European hit since 2006, tours extensively, performing for intimate crowds that mill around its international crew of dancers as they solo to American soul and R&B songs. Swarthmore College helped bring it here as one of Fringe Festival’s final shows, where the two-night run sold out at Christ Church last weekend. It reprises on Swarthmore’s Lang stage Friday and Saturday.

Its creator, teacher, and choreographer, David Zambrano, is a Venezuelan who divides his time between Amsterdam and Brussels. He is something of a magical-realist Pied Piper – or a ringmaster.

A topknot sits where the ringmaster’s top hat would be, if designer Mat Voorter had provided one – and the barefoot Zambrano is dressed only in wide red-and-white striped tails. And though he had no whip in hand, the audience meekly obeyed his invitation to enter from the cobblestone street outside. Lace-gloved Edivaldo Ernesto shouted, “Be careful!” and danced as we proceeded to the now-seatless fourth-floor space.

Each dancer found a spotlight, getting cues from an iPod Shuffle. That inflected a nice touch of chance for audience and performers, uncertainty causing everyone to shuffle around before finding where to be or look.

Slovak Peter Jasko, in sequined eyelids and Elvis jumpsuit, often danced low velocity, almost in place. In polka dots and hula skirt, the only woman, Slovenian Nina Fajdiga, blunted her most violent movements with catlike disdain. For us?

With a half-shaved head, South Korean Young Cool Park offered the most original, overtly political move of the night, goose-stepping out of his spot. Zambrano began with an energetic Pogo-dance in what I hope was a waggish wink at overwrought Jennifer Holliday singing, “And I Am Telling You, I’m Not Going.”

Curiously, he chose mostly American soul songs of the ’60s and ’70s, concert recordings – to Philly ears, tired-sounding – rather than their dancier versions. Philly invented many social dances in that era – the Mashed Potato, Watusi, and, of course, the Twist, all of which morphed with dances from other cities into funkier club and house styles by the ’80s. Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 anthem, “I Will Survive,” had an urgent rhythm we all danced to; here, the more saccharine 1982 version by Gladys Knight didn’t get our dance cells grooving.

Instead, this cast of seven found Euro-grooves, isolating body parts in wildly opposing directions, flexing whatever they could simultaneously, hands almost flung off the wrists like the opera gloves in a burlesque show. These moves were like choreographic selfies – contact-improv for the soloist.


Soul Project

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Lang Performing Arts Center at Swarthmore College.

Admission: Free.

Information: 610-328-8200 or

Merilyn Jackson For The Inquirer

Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer
Posted: Sunday, August 30, 2015, 3:01 AM

BERLIN – Approaching 75, choreographer Lucinda Childs carries her dancer’s body regally. Her high cheekbones and upturned collars reinforce the queenly effect. But though she’s a grand dame of American dance across Europe, her work has been more or less on hiatus in the United States until recently.
Childs divides her time between Paris and the world, her current company based in New York and at least two revival projects touring regularly.

Philadelphia saw her seminal Dance, created in 1979 with composer Philip Glass and artist Sol LeWitt, at the 2010 Fringe Festival. And now her minimalist 1983 Available Light comes to Philadelphia for its East Coast premiere as a headliner in this year’s Fringe Festival, which begins Thursday. This month, it ran three nights at the Berliner Festspiele at the Tanz im August Festival, now in its 27th yeaAvailable Light was originally a site work for architect Frank Gehry’s then-new Temporary Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Beverly Emmons, Childs’ lighting designer, worked with Gehry and the overhead skylight that joined two buildings, coating them with gel to diffuse the light. Childs collaborated with Gehry on the set and with composer John Adams on music. (He called his piece Light Over Water, and still does; Childs renamed it for the dance
In the spring, she revised Available Light at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and Gehry, now 86, redesigned the set for the proscenium stage, making it portable for touring – with a platform above the main stage, staircases on either side, and a chain-link fence backdrop. It will be installed at the Drexel University Armory at 32d Street and Lancaster Avenue.

“Ironically,” says Fringe Arts director Nick Stuccio, “the armory has marvelous windows all around, but since the scheduling is for night concerts, we won’t be able to use the available light.” So the windows will be covered and Emmons “will bend the lighting design for the Philadelphia space.”

“The project was first conceived by Julie Lazar,” Los Angeles MOCA’s curator in 1983, said Stuccio. “She commissioned the work and brought Gehry, Adams, and Childs together in a kind of shotgun wedding.”

In an interview just before the final show in Berlin, Childs mused wryly, “It was more like a blind date. We all knew of each other but we had not met.”
Gehry was already known as a sculptural architect, but Childs was beginning to view her work in cinematic terms. In an early interview with Lazar, she pointed out how in film, information is shifted around, there is repeated action and backtracking to the original material.

“Frank knew about Trisha [Brown, from Childs’ early days at Judson Dance]. But he came to my studio and I showed him some material, just so he could see the way I moved,” she said. Gehry told the Los Angeles Times in June, “It was probably one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.”

He ultimately came up with the two-tiered stage that echoes Sol LeWitt’s 1979 ghostly film of Childs hovering in the background in Dance. It also underpins Childs’ “geometric and mathematical ideas to organize material and to arrive at some kind of expressiveness.”
Since Stuccio brought Childs to Philadelphia five years ago, she’s reconstructed shorter pieces with Philadelphia dancers at the Performance Garage, performing them at the FringeArts space. She recently mentored local dancer/choreographer Megan Bridge for her piece based on Robert Ashley’s opera DUST in the spring. Bridge says “learning how to make a storyboard or score à la Childs” helped her greatly in her own work.

I asked Childs whether I could see one. “Yes, they’re in the U.S. now,” she said, ultimately to be donated to a museum in Paris, “but I’ll send you the score that inspired Frank. . . . I don’t think a collaboration is artists’ giving each other an assignment” – though she did ask Adams for a piece at least 55 minutes long.
Just as the impetus for the Dance revival was to preserve LeWitt’s decomposing 35 mm film by creating a digitized version, Available Light became an opportunity to update Adams’ 32-year-old multichannel electronic piece with contemporary technology. For this re-creation, “John added he what calls a few windows of pulsation for the dancers to hold on to.”

And Kasia Maimone designed new costumes. “The old costumes from 1983 by Ronaldus Shamask did not suit these dancers and seemed dated,” Childs said. “We kept the color scheme – red, white, and black – which was my request from the beginning of the collaboration.”

She insists they are not just restaging a historical artifact; they are producing a fresh piece of art, molded by new spaces, vastly updated technology, and different, more highly trained and technically proficient dancers. “The dancers of today bring to it a certain style or quality,” she said. “This group has a more uniform look, and they are all ballet-trained.” They will include Caitlin Scranton, who so spectacularly performed Childs’ role in Dance, and the tall, lanky Ty Boomershine.

Though she holds that these technology-dependent recreations are important for preserving the works of all the artists involved, in the near future, Childs says, “I’m not so much working on any more revivals. I’m continuing my practice of working with a composer and an artist – a new project with Philip Glass and James Turrell.”

More Fringe dance:
Another festival favorite, Norwegian choreographer-director-playwright Jo Strømgren, returns with three diverse works, one of which, The Border, is less theatrical and very dancey, to use the technical term. It goes up against the three Available Light performances but at different times, making this “must-see” possible to fit your schedule.

On the festival’s final weekend, David Zambrano will bring his frenzied, high-intensity Soul Project, with an international cast of virtuosic dancers performing solos to songs by artists including Aretha Franklin and James Brown.

Another import, Still Standing You, with Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido, promises to be the killer dance piece – or, if not killing, perhaps maiming. These two highly skillful dancers take (naked) male roughhousing over the edge. Bring an open mind.

Of course, there is lots of terrific Neighborhood Fringe dance to look forward to, as well: it’s not me it’s you, by; Of Our Remnants, Olive Prince Dance; Arielle Pina’s Unarmed; 2000 Movements, Gregory Holt; Purgatory, Gunnar Montana; and, of course, American Standard by Brian Sanders’ JUNK. It just wouldn’t be Fringe without JUNK, would it?

Available Light 8 p.m. Sept. 10-12, Drexel Armory, 32d and Lancaster Ave.
The Border 9 p.m. Sept. 9 & 11; 6 p.m. Sept. 10; 2 p.m. Sept 12, FringeArts. 140 N. Columbus Blvd.
Still Standing You 7 p.m. Sept. 9-11, Painted Bride, 230 Vine St.
Soul Project 8 p.m. Sept. 18 & 19, Christ Church Neighborhood House, Second and Market.
More information at
Merilyn Jackson reviews dance for The Inquirer

A tale of Lost Luggage

A Tale of Lost Luggage
by Merilyn Jackson


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