Spotlight: Ephrat Asherie Debunks the "Dancers Are Dumb" Stereotype
Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie has a thing for breaking boundaries. A trained ballet dancer, Asherie fell in love with hip hop in college and soon became one of the most talked-about b-girls on the scene. Today, she brings house and breaking to concert stages with her celebrated choreography, and continues to cross genres as a dancer in works by artists like Michelle Dorrance.
We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series:
What do you think is the most common misconception about dancers?
I don't understand how the notion of "dancers as dumb" came about. Dancers have to negotiate how to use space in relationship to other people while remembering mountains of choreography. They juggle insane schedules, all while working tirelessly to perfect their craft and take care of their bodies.
What other career would you like to try?
I love languages—I wish I could speak 17 of them. Maybe working as an interpreter, a translator or a journalist covering human rights.
What was the last dance performance you saw?
A hip hop theater play called Synching Ink, written by NSangou Njikam, directed by Niegel Smith and choreographed by Gabriel "Kwikstep" Dionisio. It was one of the most moving performances I've seen in a long time.
What's the most-played song on your phone?
I'm still a little old school and keep my music on a separate iPod. The most-played song at the moment is actually my brother Ehud's music. He's a pianist and we're working together on a new piece called Odeon. Other than that, I love Monique Bingham's voice (a celebrated house music singer) and could listen to her on repeat for days.
Do you have a pre-performance ritual?
I have a very specific warm-up that I swear by. I also have a tradition of giving my dancers York Peppermint Patties before every show.
What's your favorite book?
One of the most important books I've ever read is Man's Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl. I read it once every two years or so.
Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?
If the next day is another show day, I've ideally finished stretching and rolling out on my styrofoam roller, out of the tub and in bed.
Where did you last vacation?
I was in Sicily for a friend's wedding...magical!
What app do you spend the most time on?
Who is the person you most want to dance with—living or dead?
I would love to have another dance with two of my mentors, Marjory Smarth and Anthony Ultarte aka Voodoo Ray. Marjory passed away two and a half years ago and Ray passed away just last month. They were both pioneers, shining lights and big inspirations for so many of us in the NYC hip hop and house community.
What's the first item on your bucket list?
Learn how to speak Portuguese
What's your go-to crosstraining routine?
Dancing for hours to music by my favorite DJs. That really helps my stamina and breathing. In terms of something more regimented, I have a set of breaking drills that build technique in a way that has sustained me for years.
What's the worst advice you've ever received?
Someone told me to always have another dancer in the corner of my eye to compare myself to "because that will push you to be better." I actually believe the opposite to be true. Your inner drive to grow has to far outshine any external stimuli or comparison you may draw with someone else. That will give you longevity and sustenance. As my breaking mentor Richard Santiago (aka Break Easy) once told me, "The biggest battle you'll have will always be with yourself."
If you could relive one performance, what would it be?
Rennie Harris Puremovement's Rome and Jewels inspired me to start breaking and changed the entire trajectory of my dance life. Years later I had the opportunity to perform in the piece. I remember one of the dancers asked me if I was okay after I left the stage because I was crying. I hugged him because they were pure tears of joy.
Michele Byrd-McPhee's uncle was a DJ for the local black radio station in Philadelphia, where she was born. As a kid she was always dancing to the latest music, including a new form of powerful poetry laid over pulsing beats that was the beginning of what we now call hip hop.
Byrd-McPhee became enamored of the form and went on to a career as a hip-hop dancer and choreographer, eventually founding the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival and directing the New York City chapter of Everybody Dance Now!. Over the decades, she has experienced hip hop's growth from its roots in the black community into a global phenomenon—a trajectory she views with both pride and caution.
On one hand, the popularity of hip hop has "made a global impact," says Byrd-McPhee. "It's provided a voice for so many people around the world." The downside is "it's used globally in ways that the people who made the culture don't benefit from it."
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Every dancer knows there's as much magic taking place backstage as there is in what the audience sees onstage. Behind the scenes, it takes a village, says American Ballet Theatre's wig and makeup supervisor, Rena Most. With wig and makeup preparations happening in a studio of their own as the dancers rehearse, Most and her team work to make sure not a single detail is lost.
Dance Magazine recently spoke to Most to find out what actually goes into the hair and makeup looks audiences see on the ABT stage.