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

 

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Dance teachers have a lot of strengths (communicating corrections, choreographing gorgeous movement, planning excellent recitals, cleaning technique—just to name a few) but when it comes to interior design—talent isn't exactly a given. So when studio owners remodel or build, worrying about the decor can feel a little overwhelming (you've got just a few too many other things to worry about, don't you?).

No need to fear! In 2019 we have Pinterest, which shows us all the latest trends we should know about. To help you make the best design decisions for your studio, we've compiled a list of public Pinterest pins we think you'll love.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Vanessa Zahorian. Photo by Erik Larson, courtesy of Pennsylvania Ballet Academy

At the LINES Ballet Dance Center in San Francisco, faculty member Erik Wagner leads his class through an adagio combination in center. He encourages dancers to root their standing legs, using imagery of a seed germinating, so that they feel more grounded. "Our studios are on the fifth floor, so I'll often tell them to push down to Market Street," says Wagner. "They know that they should push their energy down to the street level." By using this oppositional force, he says, dancers can lengthen their bodies to create any desired shape.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

After years of throwing summer parties at your studio, you're likely fatigued by coming up with themes and event details. You want your students to have a good time, but you're also up to your eyeballs in choreography and costume decisions.

Never fear! We've come up with party themes and activities to do during the event. Delegate tasks to your teachers and office managers, and voilà! You have a stress-free party ready to go.

Have a blast, people!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

Q: I recently returned to a modern dance class after a long absence. While I didn't feel any acute pain at the end of class, the next morning I could barely walk from the soreness in both my Achilles. What can I do to fix this?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Q: I'm trying to think of ways to maximize studio space and revenue during the summer. What has worked for you?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

In 2019, dance parents are more eager than ever to observe their child's progress, and stay up-to-date with the ins and outs of what's happening in the classroom. That means yearly recitals aren't always enough to keep them satisfied—especially if you have rules against visitors observing class from week to week. The solution? Visitor observation weeks. Trust us, the guardians and loved ones of your students will love you for it!

We caught up with Suzanne Blake Gerety, vice president of Kathy Blake Dance Studios and regular contributor to Dance Teacher's "Ask The Experts" column, to hear her tips on how to have a successful visitor observation week.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Adequate dorsiflexion mobility is needed to find a supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely. Getty Images

Dancers are trained to think often about the range of motion, stability and power of their extended lines: the point of the foot, the reach of the penché, the explosion of the sauté in the air. But finding that same mix of flexibility and strength in the flexed foot is just as integral to technique and injury prevention. Without adequate dorsiflexion mobility, it is nearly impossible to find the kind of supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox