How I teach breaking

Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie in a baby freeze

It’s not often that a b-girl breaks down a move using Graham technique vocabulary, or describes another position as being similar to a grand plié. But Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie, who teaches at Broadway Dance Center, Peridance Capezio Center and the Joffrey Ballet School of New York, understands how closely the disciplines relate to one another. “A lot of floor work in contemporary is so related to breaking, and the core is everything in any dance style,” she says. “Students have to go into every class with a clean slate. But they shouldn’t throw away their technique. They have to make connections.”

Born in Israel and raised in Westchester, NY, Asherie studied ballet growing up. It wasn’t until attending American Dance Festival during college that she first saw break dancing. “I was watching Rennie Harris’ Puremovement perform a hip-hop version of Romeo and Juliet. I thought, ‘Why am I not doing that?’” She first attended breaking events and practices during her next semester (abroad in Italy), but when she returned to New York and began training with her mentor Richard Santiago (aka Break Easy), she realized she needed to clean up her technique. “When breaking was created, no one was thinking about technique. If you look at early footage, it’s much wilder than today,” she says. “The technique comes from the necessity to figure out how to re-create something consistently that once happened spontaneously.”

Clean lines and strength are what make Asherie stand out in the male-dominated world of breaking. “At first, I had to prove myself by showing that I was really interested in the dance, not just trying to get a boyfriend or look cool,” she says. “And because women have a lower center of gravity, it’s more likely we’ll drop our hips. But that just means we have to be that much more engaged and lifted to compensate.” In class, however, Asherie doesn’t  stress gender differentiation. “Everyone’s body is different,” she says. “I give what works for me and what I’ve seen work on other dancers—but you have to take that information and apply it to your own body. You have to roll around on the floor and push yourself to figure out how to move.”

Because breaking is ultimately performed in battles and cyphers (freestyle circles), much of Asherie’s class is geared to perfecting moves so that a dancer can use them in freestyle. “There’s not an A-to-B way to learn moves, and they don’t come overnight,” she says. “We do so much drilling in class and keep working to build strength and technique so that in improvisation we can become freer.”

In this video, Asherie demonstrates two ways to do a “baby freeze,” a fundamental pose that comes at the end of a dancer’s freestyle.

Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie graduated from Barnard College with a BA in Italian language. She studied ballet with Jayne Santoro at the Jewish Community Center of Mid-Westchester in New York, and has trained with Milton Myers and worked with Buddha Stretch. She is a regular guest artist with Rennie Harris Puremovement and has performed with artists including Bill Irwin, Michelle Dorrance and Derick K. Grant, and collaborated with Pilobolus. In 2007 she was featured as one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch.”

 

Photo by Matthew Murphy

 

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