Asya Zlatina, photo courtesy of Koresh Dance Company
Last Wednesday evening, Koresh Dance Company performed Israeli choreographer and artistic director Ronen Koresh’s evening-length Theater of Public Secrets as part of SummerDANZ at Dance Theater Workshop. Throughout twenty dramatically compelling vignettes that occur in the privacy of homes, eleven characters reveal their tormented souls and rocky relationships. Although the movement is nuanced and the dancers extraordinary technicians (and many are fine actors, as well), the root of the characters’ problems is never clear. Perhaps Koresh is serving up a message: regardless of the source of anguish, everyone suffers behind closed doors.
With assistance from superb lighting by Robb Andersen and a variety of home furnishings that make up the set, the dancers hardly take any time to establish their tense situations. In fact, the furniture often witnesses and contributes to the characters’ struggles. Seated around a dining table, Amanda Lenox and Asya Zlatina are two desperate housewives wavering between civility toward one another and animalistic urges to attack. Later, Melissa Rector dances with wild abandon to convey sexual and emotional torment as she scurries under the table, writhes over it, and flings herself to the floor. The table becomes a battleground during her provocative duet with Jae Hoon Lim as they portray an achingly depressing love-hate relationship. In a plush, scarlet-colored armchair, a giggling, glowing girl (Jessica Daley) seems to be remembering an enjoyable romantic encounter. But loneliness lurks beneath her squirming satisfaction. Perhaps most disturbing is Fang-Ju Chou Gant’s self-destructive fit in front of an oval, vintage mirror as she interchangeably admires and abhors her image.
Theater of Public Secrets isn’t all gloom and doom. A flighty woman, Alexis Viator, attempts to change her clothing behind a folding screen as she runs amok and tosses dresses and hats about the room. And on a park bench, she giddily plays footsie with a reserved man (Eric Bean, Jr.) who, after much exasperation, eventually reciprocates. These silly scenes only serve as comic relief, but Koresh’s humor is too forced to be funny and the rest of the performance is too emotionally draining to be so easily forgotten. An intermission also allows the audience to take a breath, but it interrupts the piece’s flow and breaks the tension that the dancers and lighting effectively establish in the first half.
There is no shortage of technically demanding, full-throttle dancing in the work (with a few too many hyperextensions) and the cast performs with wonderful sophistication and precision. At the heart of Theater of Public Secrets, however, are the private emotional battles that are rarely seen by the public eye. They are painful, honest, and reflective, and no amount of humor can weaken their indelible impact.