Since its world premiere performance of "Odeon" last June at Jacob's Pillow, Ephrat Asherie Dance has been one very busy and increasingly popular dance company.
The troupe, led by its namesake, Ephrat Asherie, comes to the University at Albany's Performing Arts Center Saturday at 7:30 p.m. to perform "Odeon," a multi-layered dance event set to the music of 20th century Brazilian composer Ernesto Nazareth. The event, part of the University at Albany Dance in Albany series, is sold out.
"We premiered it at Jacob's Pillow in the Berkshires last June and we've been touring around the country with it ever since," said Asherie, who is based in New York City. "We've been out to Martha's Vineyard, Chicago, Boston, Hamilton College, and after Albany we're heading to Atlanta and San Diego."
Asherie said she hasn't been to Albany yet but was excited to hear that the UAlbany venue was sold out.
"I was like, 'wow, that is great,'" she said. "It's so exciting, and I'm definitely going to like the intimate connection we'll have with the audience. We've performed in multiple spaces, but I really like the intimate spaces. We will feel the energy of the audience and they will feel ours."
An Israeli native, Asherie moved to Italy with her family when she was still a toddler. At the age of 7, they moved again to the U.S., ending up in Westchester County. Asherie graduated from Mamaroneck High School and then majored in Italian at Barnard College while also pursuing her passion.
"I was studying ballet and modern dance, and I knew I wanted to dance professionally but I didn't know what that meant," she said. "I had questions about what shape it would take."
When she visited the American Dance Festival in Durham, North Carolina and watched Rennie Harris perform, she found her answer.
"He had the first hip-hop dance company," Asherie said of Harris, who created "Rennie Harris Puremovement" in 1992 and "RHAW" (Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works) in 2012. "He's the big reason the rest of us came along. He paved the way. He did this incredible 'Romeo and Juliet' to hip-hop and that's when I knew when I said, 'I gotta do this, too.'"
Asherie, who didn't form her own dance company until 2012, said she was always dancing.
"I grew up in the 1990s listening to hip-hop and dancing quite a bit recreationally," she remembered. 'Then I got into the underground dancing scene in New York and that really formed me. I loved all the street forms of dancing; hip-hop, breakdancing and house, and having four brothers, I was really into the athleticism of break-dancing. It really spoke to me, and experiencing all this wonderful art, all this great ethos, it inspired me and gave me the confidence to pursue life as an artist. It inspired me to be expressive."
"Odeon" is a Greek word meaning a building that is built for singing exercises, musical shows and poetry competitions. Asherie's dance troupe incorporates just about all of that into the show.
"Nazareth was a Brazilian composer from the 1890s to 1930s, and when I first heard his music it mesmerized me," said Asherie. "We'll have the recorded music to go with our dancing, and it all embodies the nature of Brazilian culture, which includes European romantic influences along with the enslaved Africans and the indigenous people that were there. All of those influences are part of our performance."
There are six dancers with the Asherie troupe, including the boss.
"Oh yeah, I'll be there dancing, too," she said. "All of us except one have been together for a long time and we were all part of the underground scene in New York. Since we premiered this performance last year we've been very busy. I started the group in 2012, and we were doing fine, and then in 2016 things really started picking up. We know each other very well and we're having a great time."
'Ephrat Asherie Dance'
WHERE: University at Albany Performing Arts Center, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany
WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
HOW MUCH: Show is sold out
MORE INFO: Visit www.theegg.org