Isolation to Creation

S1 E3 | FULL EPISODE

Afrik, Ballet, Ballroom, Broadway, Club, House and Vogue

Ephrat Asherie Dance with club legends, Les Ballet Afrik and ballroom legend Omari Wiles, and Seven Deadly Sins artists Joshua Bergasse, Marc Happel and Sara Mearns go back into the studio for the first time.

AIRED: February 10, 2021 | 0:29:09
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

Now do a little ditty.

Okay everyone, this is "Care"

Wait wait you gotta be like

I'm "Care".

and "Rona".

And together we're

Corona-19.

I was just coming to look for you

so that's good.

Sorry. Found it.

And you lean back.

When you travel back.

So always leaning in the direction

that you're going.

It's called Dusty Dusty.

If you're in 102, Dusty Dusty towards

somebody, toward somebody, hey,

towards somebody, go towards

each other.

But you know, stay six feet apart.

I forgot.

Okay!

Oh!

Coming for me with that one leg!

So everybody in the company is

connected to the scene for

various numbers of years they've

been going out to clubs or

breaking all the time or a

combination of both.

Everyone has a

different set of entry points,

how those entry points intersect

with the generation above us and

the generation to come.

Yeah, I'm a community person. I

really like being with people

and like being together and that

I think brings out more of the

best of me when I'm with yeah,

working together and

best of me when I'm with yeah,

excitement and the being in the

Bubble with everybody.

I'm a club dancer. I'm a

freestyle dancer. I'm a bgirl.

So we always talk about

words, like, go off, get it in.

You lose your mind. And in

performance too, you have those

moments, right? Like just like

you almost blank out zone out.

I really credit the underground

dance community in New York City

for giving me the confidence to

pursue a life as an artist. And

in many ways for teaching me the

power of expressivity of movement.

This piece "Underscored" looks at

the lineage of music and dance

and the underground scene and

how certain seminal parties in

the 1970s really birthed this

whole lineage of underground

DJs, dancers, you know, bouncers,

you know what I mean? Like coat check people

like the whole ecosystem, right?

With this group of dancers, they

like to hear my stories because

they didn't go to the clubs I

went to and there was not the

same freedom. And that's part of

the show to tell the story telling.

She calls us the elders.

We represent a certain era of

clubs and a certain way of

dancing. There's so many

elements involved in club

culture that make the scene what

it is and give these kids the

real reason behind the dance

forms that they're doing. It's

how you interact with the

energies that are presented

before you in the club. All of

these things are important.

Is it okay if I do a bigger so-

That's what I'm saying.

Make the path like super sweeping.

So that you get past the-

Go, go, go, ah ooh.

Yeah.

Yeah yeah.

You're going to be - it's one, two

three and four?

Yeah. Oh!

Counter with

like we end however we end and keep

that while y'all. Yeah, exactly.

Yeah. Yeah.

I feel like we did it. Yeah!

You know, if we're looking at

the birth of these clubs in the

seventies, essentially these

underground spaces being some of

the only safe spaces where

communities of color and LGBTQ

communities of color could

really be together and express

fully cause above ground, they

couldn't do it. And goodness,

look at the moment we're in

right now, like how necessary

those underground spaces still are.

Part of the mission of the

company too, is finding ways for

Black and Brown dancers to also

be able to tell their own

stories in their own voices.

Right. Because that's what the

club is, right? That's what this

lineage of dances that we're

talking about, house, breaking,

whacking, hip hop, vogue, right?

It's all that you know, and

we're really talking about very

reflective styles, you know,

that come out of like the Black

and Brown LGBTQ community.

I mean, we've never experienced

anything like this, like the

biggest social uprising for

Black liberation this country

has ever seen. And what, you

know, what it means to all of us

who are working in Black and

Latinx vernacular forms. Right.

And talking about whiteness, our

whiteness, you know, or like the

company is super diverse, right?

White, Asian, Black, like we're

everybody is represented because

that's the club scene that, that

fullness, that diversity, that,

you know, complexity.

I really really respect and admire each

person in the company as unique

individual artists. And that is

what the club is where everyone

has space to fully be

themselves. And I want to see

that on stage. I want everyone

to be fully themselves.

The retired effect? No.

No, no, no. I want to be busy

with Ephrat. That's what I want to do.

The first one. I don't think it

But more like a

it's like an attitude of the neck

versus the whole back, right?

Les Ballet Afrik is very,

very, very unique from any other

company, I feel. Not to toot

their horn, but they are.

They're diverse in race, in

physicality, in dance. You know,

it's just so much that each

individual in the company brings

in. I don't want Afrik to just

be my style, just what I do, but

I'd want to find people who

understand the importance of

bringing us together as a

collective our differences and

finding our similarities and

being okay with our differences

and learning from them and

learning from each other. I

think that's the beauty of my company.

Humanity, honesty,

vulnerability, truth, heart

pain, joy, all of these things

are innate and obvious, and it's not

something he has to that's first

the feelings first. And then we

can talk about the six, seven, eight.

Five, six, seven, eight.

Throw it.

You gotta travel.

Travel! And!

Nice. Five, six, seven, eight.

Yeah, just like relax that.

Feel that.

So you know what I'm saying?

Yeah, use, pull this.

So it's almost like the same thing

we said about that.

There's so much more technique

in what we do. It's just about

like little setups is that even

though the arm going around the

face, you know, and being able

to sell this moment and seeing

the hand and the gesture of the

hands and how it waves and going

through it and the flicks of the

wrist and where they dropped the

subtlety of the elbows versus

having these strong elbows, and

you see this presence here

versus just dropping the elbows

down here and how that changes

the femininity of the quality of

the movement versus it being so,

you know, masculine, or, or

just like, you know, straight

forward, you know, to be so here

and proper, it's like, yeah,

it's there, but this, this,

this, this something else it's

essence that is tribal. And I

want to connect the roots of our

ancestors to what we do and the

nuances of what ballroom is the

regalness of what ballroom

allows us to be these Kings and

Queens of the ballroom floor.

You know what I'm saying? Like

that is

important to me.

Fish outta water!

He's a fish outta water!

My background has been a

journey. I did African dance for

years. I was seen as you know,

the son of Marie Basse, the son

of Olukose Wiles. Um, they

are pioneers. You know, they are

icons in my eyes. Um, they are

masters at what they do and

having to even live up to that,

you know, those names to what

they've done, their footsteps

has been something that's always

been constantly on the front of my brain.

Being African, being a

proud African. Today, that is

what I am. But back then, it was

difficult to be proud when there

was things internally that I was

fighting against. I still

carried faith.

Um, and that was one thing that

helped me deal with a lot of

trauma, um, that I faced, you

know, coming out about my

sexuality, um,

Finding what love is.

Finding what relationships

really mean.

Make sure you have

a lot of fun because we're going

to show you what the ballroom

truly truly is. Yeah. Are

you ready to have a show have a good time?

Are you ready to see the girls

perform in battle?

For their life?

Are you ready to see

them slay? And

carry on today?

Because we are here

at the Kaatsbaan Mock Ball.

Welcome ladies and gentlemen

feel it, welcome

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen feel it,

Welcome, to the function.

Welcome.

Ballroom culture is the LGBT's

community way of having a voice,

being creative, a safe space to

create, to feel challenged by

each other because that's what

we do. We battle. We battle

each battle makes us stronger

win or lose.

Ballroom is competitive.

You know, why did

we make it competitive? Because

we are constantly competing

already in life. So why not

compete amongst our peers, but

in a way where we are still

uplifting each other, not

competing amongst our peers like

society has us competing every

single day of our lives, but

always still there to tear us down.

Honestly, ballroom is

activism. That's what it was

created. It was created to, to

stand up for ourselves, you

know, as gay, bisexual, trans,

Latino, you know, members of

society, because we are still

members of society. We're still,

you know, civilians, we are

still human. That doesn't change

who we are.

We bring a tradition onto the

stage and what we do and how we

perform. We're all connected. If

people don't see it, we are all

connected. And I learn so much

from each and every one of my

members each and every one of my

friends, brothers, sisters,

daughters that are, that danced

with me on the stage. And again,

that's why I said, I feel

honored to be their director.

And that's all I do. I just give

them a direction, and they

get to creating.

And then after you

do the big scene you'll come and go.

Hey!

Okay!

Look who it is!

What did I say?

Yes!

Yes?

Yes.

Yeah that works.

[Multiple people speaking]

Oh, so then we'll be on.

So then we'll be on. Got it.

I've always had a great interest

in "Seven Deadly Sins". You know,

it's just incredible piece of

music, uh, written by Bertolt Brecht

and Kurt Weill in the

early thirties when it was

originally written and, um,

premiered, like I said, it was,

you know, during Hitler's reign

and was commenting on society at

that time. And I just felt like,

again, it was speaking to our,

you know, the times that we're

living through right now.

I just felt in so many ways that, um,

it needed to be put out there again.

At the same time, I was

starting to get to know Justin.

Uh, I worked in theater and

opera and dance in the city,

"Kiki and Herb", which is where I met

When you find someone like

Justin Vivian Bond, for me at the

time, it was like, I'm done.

She's the one. And then as I

listened to "Kiki and Herb" and

listened to that voice, there

was this raw power, this

character behind this voice that

I felt was right for

A production of "Seven Deadly Sins".

♪ I think I had the flu for Christmas ♪

♪ Cause I'm not feeling up to par ♪

♪ It just increases my paranoia ♪

♪ Like looking in a mirror

♪ And seeing a police car

As I got to know Justin more and more, and

then got into "Kiki and Herb" more

and more, and really would stand

on the side and listen to this

voice. I just thought this is so

Anna One. And, um, you know,

there's a part of me that

thought, okay, you know, I kind

of had to put it on the side and

didn't know where it was really

going to go, but it was exciting

for me to think that there was

an Anna One.

And then years

later, I started at New York

City Ballet. And I became fast

friends with Sara Mearns who was

quickly becoming a principal at

City Ballet. And there was one

day I was watching Sara. And

this was a dancer who I saw

creating characters on stage.

Because it is two personalities

that are representing one

character. And it just seemed so right.

♪ To someone

♪ To someone

♪ Oh yes I feel

♪ Like I owe it

♪ To someone

So I always felt because of the

history of the Brecht vile

cannon and, uh, that period, you

know, the Weimar Era that it

really resonated with me as a

queer and a trans person because

of its subversiveness. Uh, and

that, that was actually what was

used by the, uh, fascist regime

to sort of propel themselves,

uh, into power and the decadence

that it was ascribed. Whereas I

didn't think of it as being

decadent at all. It was actually

reflecting society and giving

people an opportunity to see

what was really happening.

I really felt like I needed to

go back to the material and

really strip it down, you know,

take away all of the, the sets

and the, the scenery and the

props and the, you know, just

take all of that away and just

present Anna One and Anna Two. And this

story of going out in the world

and, um, trying to create these,

you know, the money to come back

and build the house for the family.

Ah!

We're here!

And then we go

this

here!

It's sort of mind blowing that

we're here now from when like

March and April, when we we're

just like, this, is it like

nothing's ever going to happen

again? Like we're done. So it's

kind of just when you sit and

think about it, you're like,

woah.

it's like, you can't even like

express in words what it really means.

You're down here. Do you get taken up?

Yes yes yes, or,

And then also I've never been at

a residency with my husband,

You know? Yeah. You can even,

you can even get, get the other

arm as well.

This is the first thing that

he's been able to do creatively

really in a studio since March.

And so I just, I can tell in his

energy, he's just like so

excited. It's just like beaming

from him.

Yes, yes. That totally did it.

Totally did it. I think a

successful outcome from this

process, this residency would be

a really good understanding of

the piece, of "Seven Deadly Sins".

I'd like a deeper understanding

for all of us, um, understanding

of process between each other,

like how we work together and

then how we can, um, you know,

continue to collaborate and

build on that collaboration and

that connection with, with each

other. Um, and I think, you

know, if we came out of it with,

you know, chunks of material

that we really love and think

really work that we can take to

the next stage, that's, that's,

you know, that's a bonus, that's

a huge bonus for us.

You know, when you do a

residency, it's like the

beginning, it's usually the

beginning of something. And you

know, all you really hope for is

that it continues on to be

something else. And it goes

somewhere and you know, we

really have high hopes for this

and we've started it. So now we

don't want it to go dormant.

I feel like the last piece

really represents a kind of

emotional feeling of like what

[Gregory] I'm feeling about this

experience here. And the last

two weeks we haven't named it,

we just keep calling it "12/8"

[Leonardo] Because we need to change

the name.

[Gregory] Since we don't have a name

feel like somehow it is the

piece of like here know, being

here and then being not wanting

to go home. And then like having

disagreements when like making a

up and being here with your

husband and being like, Oh, like

being so, um, fond of José and

Gisele. And I feel like that piece...

[Leonardo ] Needs a name.

[Gregory] It needs a

name that represents all that

this group on this time. Okay.

[Leonardo] Do you have a name? I already

have a little light bulb in my

head. Uh it's "Cat's Band", but it's spelled...

[Gregory] C A T S B A N D, I thought about that

[Leonardo] "Cat's Band" but it's spelled C A T S no, C A T

apostrophe, S B A B A N D. "Cat's Band"

[Gregory] Because we're the cats.

[Leonardo] Yeah. And we are in a band. I

[Gregory] I think that's the name.

[Leonardo] Okay. So it's not a "12/8",

It's a "Cat's Band". Yeah.

[Leonardo] Yeah. It really does express the

feeling that we had in here.

[Gregory] It's like kind of sad, but happy

bittersweet somehow in the way that songs...

[Leonardo] Yeah. There's like a

little roar in the middle and

then we'd go back to whatever we

were back to.

[Gregory] Yeah

[Duke Dang] The magic here is that at the tail

end of the Bubble residencies,

these performers will have the

chance to perform in front of a

live audience outdoors at

Kaatsbaan Stage. This will be the

first time in America since the

pandemic that this has happened.

And while because of regulations

only a select few audience

members will get to see these

performers live at Kaatsbaan,

But what is very exciting is all

of these artists will be

arriving at Lincoln Center to

film performances that will be

shared with the world.

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