Israeli-born choreographer will premiere work in St. Louis

Israeli-born choreographer Roni Koresh worked with local modern dance company MADCO on a new work premiering in St. Louis Oct. 10-11.  


Dance is one of the most important things in humanity, and it’s important for people to be exposed to dance.

Who says?

Ronen (Roni) Koresh, an Israeli-born choreographer and founder of Philadelphia’s Koresh Dance Company, which is best known for blending ballet, modern and jazz. 

Koresh, 52, also is the choreographer of  “Points of Contact,” one of three dance premieres that Dance St. Louis will present Oct. 10-11 at New Dance Horizons III, which is a part of the annual American Arts Experience-St. Louis festival.  

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Koresh spent nine days early in September choreographing “Points of Contact” and setting the dance on MADCO, a longtime modern dance company based in St. Louis and headed by  executive and artistic director Stacy West. 

“Roni’s dance consists of multiple sections, each with a very distinct quality and feel, and each with very different music,” West said. “Roni finds beauty in seeing the humanness in each dancer and letting the audience see who they are.” 

Koresh has been on the faculty at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts since 1986, and he teaches master classes and participates in dance festivals around the country. While at home in Philadelphia late last month, Koresh made time to 

talk about his experience with MADCO, about dance and about his cultural roots.

You were born and raised in Tel Aviv, and your early dance training came from your mother, a folk dancer in the Yemenite tradition. Talk about that a bit.

Israel is a very cultural place, and a lot of expression there is through dance. Growing up, I went twice a week with my mother to a cultural center for folk dance. My grandfather also was a great dancer. Dancing in the Yemenite tradition is huge and, even now, folk dance is everywhere in Israel.

 Over time, did you became interested in other forms of dance? 

I did. Slowly, I felt challenged to try more things. I started with jazz and ballet. Then I joined Martha Graham’s Batsheva 2 Dance Company. Martha Graham was no longer artistic director, but it was still one of greatest companies in the world.

 After leaving the Graham company, you spent three years in the Israeli Army. Then what happened?

I had seen Alvin Ailey’s company perform in Israel when I was 17, and I was amazed by the physicality of the dances — that was something new. When I finished military service, I went to New York in 1983 to study with the Alvin Ailey company for a year. 

Did you return to Israel after that?

I had intended to, but I was learning so much, getting so many offers to dance, I ended up staying in the U.S., where I was very lucky to study with so many of the greats. 

In 1991, you founded Koresh Dance Company. What is it all about?

We fluctuate between 10 and 12 dancers, and we’re very busy. We tour to about 25 communities each year, and we have three productions a year in Philadelphia. 

How does being an Israeli, being Jewish, influence your choreography? 

Israel is a huge part of my life, it’s what defines me as a person — the culture, the tension, the love of life, the passion, the heat, the music and food, the complexity of racial and cultural integration. 

I would say my work is influenced by Middle Eastern culture coupled with American experience. 

How did you get connected with MADCO?

Through Michael Uthoff, the executive director at Dance St. Louis. I’ve known Michael for many years, and when he called about this new project, and I said I’d love to do it.

How did it go?

It was great – a lot of fun. All the dancers worked very hard, and MADCO was very generous, very accommodating. Originally, I was supposed to have six girls and six guys, but when I came in, I had just four girls, and one had a broken foot. I choreographed a piece on the floor for her.

What is “Points of Contact” about?

It is a dance about community, about relationships, about our sense of self. The dance starts with the human spirit. Then it goes more personal, more internal, and then very personal. It’s quite powerful, very strong. 

Why should people go see dance?

Dance is beautiful, sensuous, empowering, inspiring. Dance is the purest art of all — it is poetry in motion, it is sculpture come to life, it is literature, communication without words. 

Do you still dance? 

I don’t perform, but I still dance every day in the studio.

New Dance Horizons III

WHAT:  Three world premieres presented by Dance St. Louis

When:   8 p.m. Oct. 10-11

Where:  Touhill Performing Arts Center, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1 University Boulevard

How much:  $30

More info:   314- 516-4949 or