Choreographer Ronen Koresh is not sure what the future holds for the performing arts.
“You don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s really frightening. It doesn’t feel like a pause, it feels like an inevitability of a sort. We’re all still in shock, to tell you the truth,” he said.
The owner of Koresh Dance Co. in Rittenhouse Square is coping with shuttered theaters and canceled shows by exploring film, which can be shot at a safe social distance.
“It’s actually very cool because I’ve always said limitations cause creativity. We become creative only when we’re limited,” he said. “Is it the ultimate way I would like to operate? Probably not. I miss my dancers, I miss their energy, I miss our time at the studio. But we’ll see. We have to deal with the situation at hand right now.”
He is creating a trilogy of short films with dancers in his company called “Hide Your Face, Unmask Your Heart.” The first film, “Six Feet Apart,” was inspired by the pandemic and social distancing.
The second, “The Elephant Is in the Room,” addressed the killing of George Floyd.
The third, “All Dance Leads to Home,” is in production and is meant to inspire hope.
“The Elephant Is in the Room” is based on a poem written by Koresh’s friend Karl Mullen and features Philadelphia dancers Zane Booker and Raphael Xavier.
Koresh held a virtual roundtable last week with Booker and Xavier to address the role of art in times of crisis.
“I was so happy Roni called me to do this project because I needed a space to say something, and I didn’t know what I needed to say, but it was the perfect venue to say something,” Booker said.
Xavier said he admired Koresh’s work and thought it would be great to take part in one of his ideas. He said he usually did not create work that addressed race and police brutality, but felt he had to engage with the subjects.
“I would never do anything associated with topics like this. I’m just not that person, and for years I’ve ignored these topics,” he said. “I didn’t want to be the angry bitter Black man, and I’ve sort of stayed ignorant on purpose. I’ve seen (racism) as a child at 5 years old, I’ve seen it at 5, 15, 25, now I’m grown and it’s still here. It seems like it’s always going to be there and it’s always been there and it’s super frustrating to have to deal with it over all these years.”
Booker, who is also Black, said the film provided an outlet for his sadness and anger.
“I hope people have the energy to keep fighting. I hope they stay in the streets and tear up the world every time someone gets killed. Not that I want people’s property to get damaged, but I want us to understand the relationship between 400 years of oppression and killing someone in a public square. It’s like seeing someone get their head chopped off in public,” he said.
Koresh is not sure where he fits into the American racial landscape, but he recalls facing prejudice while growing up in Israel.
“I’m a Yemenite Jew, so I’m dark skinned. In my country, I’m always going to be considered Black, and as a child I was dark, curly. Israel is not without its own issues of racism and prejudice,” he said. “I grew up with a lot of prejudice against me and where I came from, and most Middle Eastern Jews felt that way.”
He studied African American dance with renowned choreographer Alvin Ailey when he arrived in the United States and incorporated those influences into his work, but refrains from classifying his art or identity based on race.
“I’m from Israel, I am Jewish, but I never thought that my expression came from one place. I’m the sum of all of my experiences so it changes constantly,” he said. “You want to be universal.”