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.
Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.
But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.