Ephrat Asherie Dance brings ‘vast, complex and layered’ street and club dances to NWA

Ephrat Asherie Dance brings ‘vast, complex and layered’ street and club dances to NWA

“There’s a lot bubbling underground these days in Northwest Arkansas,” says Cynthia Post Hunt, curator of performance at The Momentary in Bentonville. “We’ve got DJ sets and dance pop-ups happening all over – folks like Breaking Habits, Her Set Her Sound, NWA Movement Hub, Backroom AR, and Haus of Untz to name just a few – and they are bringing us back into social spaces and reminding us just how much we like to move our bodies.

That said, “we’re thrilled to welcome Ephrat Asherie Dance to Bentonville,” she adds. “I’m excited to see how the stories and moves of ‘UNDERSCORED’ — with New York City dance legends and heroes — can both inspire and affirm the thriving and quickly expanding scene here. It’s a great show, complete with skilled dancers and captivating storytelling — great for lovers of dance, the club and New York!”

The company’s artistic director and choreographer, Ephrat Asherie, answered these questions for The Free Weekly prior to their weeklong residency at The Momentary.

Q. Who were the creative minds behind Ephrat Asherie Dance?

A. I started the company because I wanted to tell stories with artists that I deeply admire. The dances that we do — street and club dances — are complex, layered and inherently narrative. EAD is a really special group of artists. We all know each other from the social dance scene and have spent years dancing together — at the club, at practice sessions, at battles — but we also share a deep interest and curiosity in collaborating and creating for the stage and other performance contexts.

Q. What inspired the creation of the company?

A. In 2010 I injured my knee and had to get surgery. During my recovery, I started taking acting classes so I could stay creative. We were given the assignment to write several personal monologues about experiences in our lives that shaped us. I wrote one about growing up with four big brothers, and I remember that in the midst of sharing the monologue with the class, all I could think of was “Wait. This is actually a dance.” Once I recovered from the injury, I created a solo inspired by this very monologue … I had never thought of myself as a choreographer before that moment.

Q. Can you help define the styles of dance that you do for those of us who know performed dance mostly as ballet?

A. The dances that we do are all part of the continuum of dances from the African diaspora, a continuum of dances that is vast, complex and layered. The company is rooted in African American and Latine vernacular dances, specifically the street and club dances including breaking, hip-hop, house, New York style hustle, and vogue. All these dances are connected to a profound lineage. For example, in hip-hop and house, you will find deep movement and rhythmic connections to vernacular jazz, Lindy, Charleston and tap dancing. In New York style hustle, you will find a strong connection to salsa. What is really exciting about “UNDERSCORED” is that in this piece you will see five generations of New York city club dancers — the cast ranges in age from 28 to 80 — doing a plethora of these dances. The three club legends performing with us, Archie Burnett, Brahms “Bravo” LaFortune and Michele Saunders, are part of the generation of dancers that helped usher in New York City’s underground club culture in the 1970s.

Q. What does it bring to your company to be out in places like Bentonville?

A. It is really important for us to connect with our audiences. “UNDERSCORED” is the story of a particular and seminal moment in time in New York City, but it is also a story about how necessary it is to gather and create space for each other to be fully ourselves. We hope sharing our stories will inspire people to dance, create and to remember that we are all more connected than we think.


Ephrat Asherie Dance:


WHEN — 7 p.m. Sept. 29-30 and 2 p.m. Oct. 1

WHERE — RØDE House at The Momentary, 507 S.E. “E” St. in Bentonville

COST — $10-$20

INFO — 657-2335, themomentary.org

FYI — The company’s residency also includes a film screening, artist conversation and dance workshop.

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