Ephrat Asherie Dance’s “Odeon” finds common roots in diverse cultural cues
An entire world of cultural and musical cues drives the underground dance community in New York City.
“Odeon,” Ephrat Asherie Dance’s original work bound for the Macky Auditorium in November, seeks to illustrate the depth and diversity of that scene, as it combines storied Afro-Brazilian rhythms and sounds with contemporary hip-hop, house, vogue and other choreography styles that are part of the current lexicon of street and club dancers in New York.
The piece, which debuted at the Doris Duke Theatre in 2018, features music by Brazilian composer Ernesto Nazareth, an artist whose work fuses 20th century European Romantic music with choro, samba and other Afro-Brazilian musical genres. A collaboration between sister and brother team Ephrat and Ehud Asherie (choreographer and musical director respectively), “Odeon” seeks to find a synthesis through movement, a fusion that illustrates common roots and shared artistic goals.
“There’s a lot of layering in Nazareth’s music, putting together Brazilian rhythms, European melodies and other elements. The choreography is doing that too, finding common ground between many dance styles through their shared West African roots,” said choreographer Ephrat Asherie. “There’s the idea in this piece that the music is evoking all of these dances, and that they already exist in our lives as club dancers, as part of New York City’s nightlife.”
A quartet playing upright bass, piano and a wide array of Brazilian percussion instruments brings Nazareth’s music to life for “Odeon,” while an ensemble of six dancers performs the ambitious choreography. Even though that choreography spotlights contemporary styles and innovations, it also seeks to spell out common ties to the music that made Nazareth’s compositions so unique. Nazareth layers European musical conventions with African and Brazilian rhythms and harmonies and the choreography in “Odeon” layers multiple movement styles from New York City’s underground dance scene, connecting them to their origins.
“We’re exploring contemporary club dances as part of the continuum of dances from the African diaspora,” Asherie said. “The music and the movement in this work are a symbiotic thing, because of those shared roots.”
“Odeon” aims to reveal new features of a wide array of contemporary street and club dances by “remixing them, picking them apart and challenging them to inhabit unfamiliar spatial and choreographic contexts.” The piece works to challenge old conceptions and reveal new artistic through-lines, all the while inviting the audience into a wholly unique world of music and dance.
“That’s the hope, that no matter where you are, in terms of intersecting with this work, there’s something here to make you feel inspired and makes you feel like you want to ask questions,” Asherie said. “It’s what makes art so essential.”
Ephrat Asherie Dance appears on the Artist Series on Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Macky Auditorium.