A Sat­ur­day night in the city 

The Annen­berg Cen­ter and NextMove dance present Ephrat Asherie’s Odeon’

In
2 minute read
A clear crowd-pleaser: choreographer Ephrat Asherie performs with the ensemble of her company in ‘Odeon.’ (Photo by Matthew Murphy.)
A clear crowd-pleaser: choreographer Ephrat Asherie performs with the ensemble of her company in ‘Odeon.’ (Photo by Matthew Murphy.)

Ephrat Asherie, based in New York City, is a self-described “b-girl, dancer and choreographer.” Her choreography is rooted in street and social dance, heavily infused with a hip-hop sensibility. She brought her lively dance company to the Annenberg Center last weekend for the Philly premiere of Odeon (also the company’s local debut), much to the apparent delight of the normally staid University City audience.

An upbeat vibe

Performed with a small ensemble of live musicians onstage, Odeon was made up of a series of short vignettes that followed one upon another in quick succession. The vibe was upbeat and the overall attitude was evocative of an urban block party where the whole point is to enjoy yourself.

The music, composed by Ernesto Júlio de Nazareth, was very lively and jazzy, heavy on percussion. Its propulsive rhythm drove the company around the stage.

There was no question that the company members appearing here, four women and two men, are a charismatic bunch. They commanded the stage at the Annenberg with drive, athleticism, and no small amount of humor and street-wise attitude that in short order had the audience eating out of their hands.

Because the music had such percussive drive, and the dancers had such charismatic energy, the audience often clapped along, or hooted and hollered their appreciation at each gymnastic display.

Bound by the rhythm

The ensemble was more than up to these athletic requirements, each dancer exhibiting strength, grace, and spot-on skills to spare. While the occasional somersault was noteworthy enough, it was the precision of the execution that was impressive. The soloists in particular displayed a certain world-is-my-oyster strut and fun-night-out attitude you could just as likely see on South Street on a Saturday night.

Asherie’s choreography includes lots of jumping and somersaults, which require a great deal of precision, despite seeming to randomly burst from the proceedings. Asherie brought various dance styles to each vignette, with a bit of hip-hop here, some smooth-jazz moves with some of the duets there, and some moves reminiscent of voguing in one of the solo sections. The binding element throughout was the rhythm.

Getting with the program

While the mash-up of approaches seemed to me to be rather random at first, as I thought about it, a certain cohesion and purposefulness emerged. It was a party, after all: a celebration of urban life. The lack of a narrative through-line threw me for a loop, leaving me at first unresponsive to what Asherie was actually trying to achieve. My initial perception of choreographic limitations gave way to an appreciation for the diversity of her influences. I had to get with the program, as it were.

In the final analysis, Ephrat Asherie pleased her audience—and isn’t that what counts the most? I, however, came away with a humbling lesson: you must look beyond your first impression. There is often more to see than what first catches your eye.

What, When, Where

Odeon. Choreography by Ephrat Asherie. Ephrat Asherie Dance. Presented by the Annenberg Center and NextMove Dance on February 7 and 8, 2020 at the Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut St., Philadelphia. (215) 422-4580 or annenbergcenter.org.

The Annenberg Center accommodates the needs of individuals with physical disabilities. Details are available online. The Annenberg has a gender-neutral restroom.

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