by Gina Palumbo for The Dance Journal
On Saturday February 8th, Ephrat Asherie Dance brought its most recent work Odeon to the Annenberg Center with no intermission. An ensemble of lively personalities, squeaking sneakers and relaxed teal, black and gold clothes was cohesive with the lights, sounds and styles of the work. The audience vibed with the group naturally, at the assurance of the presenter who asked that we sit back. I wished then for the world, for a record button in my brain, so that I too could relax, instead of furiously scribbling in the darkness.
Silence engulfed the space as two dancers Manon Bal & Matthew “Megawatt” West, walked into the safety and vulnerability of the spotlight circle. A scene straight out of an underground battle, they never broke eye contact with one another as their faces inched nearer and nearer to each other. The musicians weren’t yet needed as Bal & West began a body percussion symphony. The beat pattern brought me back to the number games and Miss Mary Macks of childhood. Each section was a stop motion movie, with vignettes coming and going as dancers flew in and out, as if they were being sucked into a wind tunnel. The fourth wall was punched in as the dancers shoved each other to pine for our attention.
Another duet followed between them. Here, every plane was used, from the floor to the air, with astronomical jumps and syncopated mountain climbers. Floor work was geometric as a bassist, Eduardo Belo, played for them. Cartwheels were suspended by West’s head instead of his hands, and back walkovers were effortless, even though the pair still held hands. With the cheeky inversions and tension of capoeira, the duet ended in silence, and both began to exit the stage. At the last second, Bal stayed on to start something new.
Bal “vogued” across stage, introducing yet another style to the audience, and immersed herself into a solo channeling her inner Ru Paul. Asherie entered the stage to face the back wall and be her own dance partner. I learned here that Asherie’s work has textures, but there is no chaos for the eyes to process. Two different styles took place at once, and yet, both styles made sense next to each other. Suddenly a glance, a recognition of each other’s presence, pulled them out of their style and their movements became one, and before I knew it, the whole ensemble was on stage again.
The section came to a silent close as they crossed their hands, snapped their fingers, and rolled their shoulders back, twice and in that order. The ensemble faced the back wall and lights changed from yellow to ice blue. With their shadows on the scrim, they moved without pretension, and not just because it looked pretty spectacular.
With partnering came inversions galore, and some of the most hard-hitting movement I have ever seen in my life as Omari Wiles vogued in glittering silver sleeves. As Asherie, Bal and West slid into a trio, the stage became a pinball machine. Slowly, they transitioned into smooth floor work as they remained a true triangle. It was incredible to view it from the audience, but a view from the ceiling would have been ethereal.As the evening progressed, so did musician participation. The dancers clapped as the musicians closed in on them. The harder the beat, the more their bodies shrunk to get closer to themselves and to each other. As the pace quickened, so did my heart rate. Back and forth they went, as dancers egged them on and musicians kept learning more about the dancers. Asherie suddenly picked up one of their instruments, and began playing too. An accomplished dancer, choreographer, AND percussionist? Can’t get any better than that. Bubbly and bright, Odeon was a champagne tower, an effervescent and delicious treat in a mundane world.
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