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Ephrat Asherie Dance: “Odeon”

Ephrat Asherie Dance's "Odeon" provided a bright, charming, vigorous interlude in months of darkness.

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Matthew West, Ephrat Asherie and Manon Bal in a scene from Asherie’s “Odeon” (Photo credit: Robert Altman)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie, the artistic director of the effervescent Ephrat Asherie Dance (EAD) has absorbed the disciplines of a number of dance forms:  hip-hop, breaking, Latin-American and Vogue.  She skillfully and wittily scanned all of these into Odeon, a 105-minute long work that showed off her six member troupe.

They—including Asherie—danced with a verve, if not native authenticity, that matched the Brazilian-tinged score by Ernesto Nazareth, here interpreted by an on stage four-member band under the musical direction of Ehud Asherie.

The shape of Odeon was defined by the nine sections of Nazareth’s score, each labeled with a Brazilian tag, beginning with the quiet “Brejeiro” and ending with the brazenly noisy “Batuque.”

Odeon opened as Asherie and Matthew “Megawatt” West faced each other in a sophisticated pat-a-cake mime which craftily evoked kids playing, flamenco, hip-hop and ballroom dancing.  This segued into a playful Samba that went from standing to lying on the floor and back again to standing, hips swaying and feet delicately stamping.

Ephrat Asherie and Omari Wiles a scene from Asherie’s “Odeon” (Photo credit: Robert Altman)

A clapping quartet was succeeded by a friendly rhythmic section with the lined up dancers exchanging claps with the musicians on their South American percussion instruments.  Another duet, this time more seductive than the first, morphed into a trio with cartwheels that grew into a group dance that included stalking capoeira movements.

As they danced through the nine discrete sections, sometimes separated by silent standoffs, the rhythms quickened and slowed; feet pounded the stage or skittered across it; hips twisted and undulated and the stage floor became home to crawls, twists and athletic jumps from flat to standing.

It all built to a free-for-all joyous ending in which the dancers joined the musicians in a Brazilian romp ending with all lying prone, their smiling faces gazing at the amazing band.

Each dancer contributed not only discipline but also personality.  Valerie “Ms. Vee” Ho had a tough athletic approach; Teena Marie Custer, a saucy sensuality; Manon Bal, a sweetness that belied the seductiveness of the movements; Ousmane Wiles, some superb hip twisting and partnering; and Mr. West who nearly stole the show with his Vogue number wearing glittery opera gloves.

Matthew West and Omari Wiles in a scene from Ephrat Asherie’s “Odeon” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

The dramatic lighting, which included a dreamy trio of dancers wondering at their large shadows cast upon the back wall, was by Kathy Kaufmann and the well-appointed workout gear was designed by Mark Eric.

The good natured musicians were Henrique Eisenmann, Chris Haney, Angel Lau and Ranjan Ramchandani.

The choreography may have been a tad repetitious and the versions of Brazilian dance forms more playful than sexy, but Odeon provided a bright, charming, vigorous interlude in months of darkness.

Ephrat Asherie Dance: “Odeon” (streaming April 15 – 25, 2021)

For tickets:  http://www.joyce.org

Running time: 105 minutes 

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Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (400 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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