The Timelessness of Ephrat Asherie's ODEON and Where It's Headed Next
Dancer/choreographer Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie's background is a melting pot of cultures from all over the world—which you can vividly see reflected in her work. But the recent Harkness Promise Awardee attributes the cross-pollination of genres in her work to more than just her background.
The choreographer says her eclectic style is deeply inspired by the New York City club scene. "It reflects a utopic space where people of so many different backgrounds can come together," she says. "Everyone has the room, space and time to express all the parts of themselves. So the idea of having the freedom to put all my interests together is supported by the collective consciousness of the club saying 'Go for it!' "
We stepped into the studio with Asherie and her company as they rehearsed an excerpt of ODEON for The CUNY Dance Initiative's 5th Year Fest. The piece, which premiered at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in June 2018, is a work Asherie feels will be in her repertoire forever. "I think the music is really timeless," she says. "There's something universal about it." Unfortunately, the musical score by Ernesto Nazareth will not be live with the company at CUNY as it was when it premiered at the Pillow.
"The piece is rooted in Brazilian music," Asherie says, "but because Brazilian culture is implicitly such a hybrid of its Indigenous and African roots, and European influences—there's something in there that is so unique and that spoke immediately to me. I always like making connections, whether it's through dance, people, spaces or time periods."
Catch ODEON at CUNY Dance Initiative's 5th Year Fest at Baruch Performing Arts Center, March 21 and 23.
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"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.