Philly's Female Phenoms

August 12, 2012

Both Koresh and BalletX perform at SummerStage this Wednesday. The two companies have a lot in common. They hail from Philadelphia, have highly technical dancers, and are held together by strong leading ladies.

When Roni Koresh began Koresh Dance Company in 1991, Melissa Rector, then a student at University of the Arts, was at his heels, picking up pieces of wisdom. Today she remains his right-hand woman, serving as star performer, assistant artistic director, and an instructor at the school.

In the classroom, she is a mentor. Steering students through a grueling fusion of modern jazz and Luigi, she emphasizes focus and intention. In 2008, Rector began setting her own choreography on the Koresh Youth Ensemble. She easily settled into her place as the matriarch of Koresh. 

Onstage she is a powerhouse. She is petite but grounded. She is conscious but daring. She is intricate but unafraid of extension. She is a seasoned veteran but fits in next to younger company members.

Rector’s power and legacy are matched by Tara Keating of BalletX. Keating, a Juilliard alum, danced for a decade as a soloist with the Pennsylvania Ballet. Her classical background and modern training made her a perfect fit for BalletX. A founding member, she has danced in every performance since 2005, and is the company’s artistic coordinator.

Keating is a chameleon with the grace and poise of a ballerina, and the quirk and strength of a modern dancer. I’ve watched her vogue in a gold mask in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Castrati, leap around as the Cat in the Hat in Christine Cox’s The Striped Hat, and guide the company through Matthew Neenan’s The Last Glass.

BalletX was founded by two of Keating’s PAB peers and friends, Matthew Neenan and Christine Cox. Though they’re the leaders behind the scenes, Keating is the company’s leader onstage. She embodies BalletX’s cohesive blend of modern and ballet.

Keating teaches around the Philadelphia area, and has set several pieces of BalletX’s repertoire. This summer Keating and Rector paired up at BalletX’s inaugural summer intensive, teaching ballet and modern jazz.

Wednesday will reunite the two Philly phenoms on the same stage. The companies will be joined by the winner of Dancin’ Downtown at the Joyce, a collaboration between Dancers Responding to AIDS and The Joyce Theatre. There’s no telling what will come next for these companies, but one thing’s for sure—Rector and Keating are here to stay.

See them dance Wednesday, Aug. 15, at 8 p.m., SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, NY. —Cory Stieg