Ephrat Asherie Dance performed "Odeon," which was inspired by the music of Ernesto Nazareth. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
There is joy in Ephrat Asherie Dance.
That was clear on Saturday night at the University at Albany where the sneaker-shod six-member ensemble imbued themselves with the rhythms of Brazilian composer Ernesto Nazareth’s music in “Odeon.”
Choreographed by Artistic Director Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie, the piece had an old-time musical flavor, fueled by the dancer’s theatrical couplings and campy winks and nods. Yet it also had an edge, because these six dancers, including Asherie herself, are skilled in street, club and African dance. Combined with showy personalities and Nazareth’s music that swung from classical piano to heated solo drums, “Odeon” erupted with wit and good-hearted fun.
It started off with Manon Bal and Matthew “Megawatt” West establishing the beat with an elaborate game of patty cake for hands and feet. Warmed up, the audience was then taken on a journey where they rode the music with everything from ballroom to break-dancing. It all served to inspire smiles – among themselves and the audience.
This glee was wrought, in part, by Asherie’s giving her dancers free-reign to show off their individuality. The choreographer did create some symmetrical passages where dancers matched their partner’s moves. But she also acknowledged their strengths by allowing each, including herself, time in the spotlight.
Ousmane “Omari Mizrah” Wiles won over the crowd with his wild-armed dance and later his African-influenced solo. Wiles came off as a diva, one that the sold-out crowd adored.
West, on the other hand, was smooth and cool. He was adept at busting the b-boy moves as well as guiding his partner through a tiny tango or a simmering samba.
All the women, Asherie, Bal, Teena Marie Custer and Val “Ms. Vee” Ho, were also versatile. But Asherie was the one who caught my eye. Her attack was sharp, focused yet slightly flirtatious. She was all in and enticed the others to follow.
Certainly, the music gave the dancers plenty of leeway. Nazareth’s catalogue was classical, jazzy and popular. And Asherie upon hearing the music, as performed by her brother and pianist Ehud Asherie, knew that much could be expressed through it.
I’m so glad she acted on her revelation and shared it with us.