It's hard to believe Koresh Dance Company has been performing on Philly boards for almost 25 years. Harder yet to think Melissa Rector still shines in every performance since 1991. And harder still to not be moved by Aftershock, artistic director and founder Ronen Koresh's love letter to his adoptive homeland. It opened his spring run at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre Thursday night.
Perhaps his episodic style derives from his multi-dimensional biography. The oldest of five children, he was born in Israel and began his dance career in the second company of the world-renowned Batsheva company. It was interrupted by compulsory military service – in which all his siblings also served. He left for New York to join Alvin Ailey School a month after his service. So military motifs often pepper his choreography.
Aftershock's 13 titled sections begin with "Then," move through "Change" and end in "Aftershock" But instead of his usual big bang, full cast finale, he surprises us with a poignant duet for Shannon Bramham and Rector bathed in Peter Jakubowski's joyous polka-dot lighting. Don't worry. He brings the full company out together in the penultimate section, "Whiplash." And it's a stunner – not about pretty, but awkward, angular, sharp moves – elbows up, shudders, insane belly scratching.
I especially loved the two opening, full-cast numbers. Most of the current 10-member ensemble have been in company several years and they're dancing together as smoothly as a well-tuned Lamborghini. Koresh masterfully doubles their look by massing them center stage in double lines of three diagonally with Joe Cotlar filling up the space on one side and three dancers in a triangle on the other. They march and drill, lunging to the side to cataclysmic music by Mozart and James Blackshaw and a poetry recitation by Karl Mullen mixed over it, "The biggest shock of all is who we are."
Outstanding moments: Robert Tyler gracefully mirroring one of the women to the fingertips to music by Gregory James Smith; the trio called "Change" with Asya Zlatina, Kevan Sullivan and Fang-Ju Chou Gant. Flowing one from the other, three love duets ranged from the light romantic with Cotlar and an elegant Krista Montrone; a sexy, French flavored tango with Jessica Daley and Tyler. And, in a darkly dramatic duet called "Alive," Rector and Micah Geyer seem on an ambivalent journey that ends in tender acceptance.