Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie on Collaborating—and Clashing—With Her Brother
Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie is no stranger to Jacob's Pillow. The New York–based b-girl has performed on the famous Inside/Out stage and at the Doris Duke Theatre and has appeared several times as a guest artist with Dorrance Dance. The native Israeli returns this summer as the first recipient of the Jacob's Pillow Fellowship at Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post (which includes a $15,000 grant, a weeklong Pillow residency and another residency at Long Island University)—and to premiere a new work, Odeon, with her company, Ephrat Asherie Dance.
You must be so excited to go to Jacob's Pillow again.
It's truly amazing to be somewhere where people value dance so much. There's a weight given to what we do that's special and not how the rest of the world tends to operate around art. It's like a dance fairyland.
What was the inspiration for Odeon?
I knew I wanted to collaborate with my brother, Ehud, who's a jazz pianist. I would always go see his gigs, and there was a composer he played all the time, Ernesto Nazareth. I started listening to more of that music, and Ehud said, "Why don't we just do a project with Nazareth?"
The music straddles popular Brazilian rhythms and then this very classical, romantic music. Ehud helps the percussive feel come out, so it's very connected to the styles I do, which are all African-based. The title of the show, Odeon, is one of my favorite Nazareth tunes—but it's also the name of a kind of Greek and Roman building where people would gather for performances.
What is it like collaborating with your brother?
The same thing that makes it great makes it difficult! We can speak so directly to each other, which is efficient—nobody needs to be coddled. But, when we have a disagreement, we can really disagree. We're cut from the same cloth, so we're both pretty stubborn. At the same time, though, he introduced me to the music for Odeon and he loves it so much. That love itself is infectious.
The last time you were at Jacob's Pillow was with Dorrance Dance, whom you've been touring with quite a bit. What has it been like working with tap dancers?
I have this reverence for tap dancers because they're both musicians and dancers. Tap is the first of this lineage of African social dance; you can see in it the roots of everything that my company and I do. It feels like we're all cousins—it totally makes sense to work together. It's also helped me think about the percussive values of the things I do and think about choreography in a different way. I ask myself: What does this sound like in my mind, even if someone else can't hear it?
After your Pillow premiere, what's next?
We received a National Dance Project grant from New England Foundation for the Arts, so we're going on tour with Odeon. We're going to be able to keep living in the work, keep growing, keep seeing how it changes. Performance is ephemeral, but we'll get to live in it a little.
Sometimes we find absolute gems in the DM Archives. And sometimes we find things that are so bizarre we couldn't have made them up if we tried. Take, for example, the opening lines of an article that appeared in the December 1944 issue of Dance Magazine:
If everyone seems a bit obsessed with tidying up right now, blame the trendy Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo. Her uber-popular book-turned-Netflix-show has so many people purging their closets that thrift stores can no longer keep up with the donations. The reason? Fans are falling in love with what Kondo calls "the life-changing magic of tidying up."