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.
Now do a little ditty.
Okay everyone, this is "Care"
Wait wait you gotta be like
And together we're
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
But you know, stay six feet apart.
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.
You're going to be - it's one, two
three and four?
like we end however we end and keep
that while y'all. Yeah, exactly.
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.
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.
You gotta travel.
Nice. Five, six, seven, eight.
Yeah, just like relax 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
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
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
Finding what love is.
Finding what relationships
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.
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.
Look who it is!
What did I say?
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.
And then we go
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,
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
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
[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.
[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.
More Episodes (4)
Video Clips (1)
- DanceWatch: Works & Process gets artists back in the studio with bubble residenciesJanuary 27, 2021