Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ephrat Asherie's A Single Ride: You've Taken This Train




   Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie’s A Single Ride. Photo by Demetrius Fordham.
A Single Ride, the multimedia result of Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie’s commission from Dixon Place, plumbs the subway and its many colorful peculiarities for inspiration.

The piece opens with a video featuring a male, baseball cap set at a jaunty angle, break-dancing his way through Penn Station.  With an empty Metro card and a fast approaching train, he opts to jump the turnstile. Just as he’s about to fail and hit the bar, a dancer dives from offstage into the linked arms of two performers, replicating the on-screen protagonist’s slam into a cold, metal barrier. It’s a nifty visual trick; our focus switches from the video to the dancing.

In A Single Ride, Asherie constructs choreographic episodes juxtaposing the dancers against an electronic montage of empty cars, train tracks, and subway stations.  The continuously playing video designed by David Bengali—a stand-alone work of beauty—emphasizes bright, sharp, and shiny shots that look like hard candy. When the dancers move, which may not be as often as you like, it’s a mish-mash of hard-hitting break dancing moves intermingled with posing, strutting, and raw partnering.  

A score composed by Marty Beller, drummer for They Might Be Giants, captures the animated vigor found in the human flood that swells the subway system daily. Poppy and populist but never condescending, Beller engineers addictive rhythms that make your toes tap.

The six performers take on the subway’s typical characters: crazy people, sick people, perverted people, annoying people, homeless people, singing people, scary people, smelly people, and so forth.  You smile in commiseration as the simulation of a tightly packed train affords cheeky performer Richard Maguire the opportunity to cop surreptitious feels from unsuspecting females.  

Periodically, A Single Ride feels like a public service announcement. Visibly pregnant dancer MiRi Park squeezes through a row of seated audience members. She stands and rubs her belly as they squirm in discomfort. No one stands up for what’s right tonight.

Asherie is at her best when she highlights the dreamy tedium of subway riding.  Alone in a crowd, the dancers lazily somersault and meltingly sprawl across the darkened stage as their electronic versions tumble across the video screen. Getting to where you’re going never looked so beautiful.

A Single Ride amuses with its familiarity. You know these people. You are these people. But Asherie never taps into anything deeper than stereotypes and obvious clichés. An Asian lady hawks DVDs for “five dollah” and you snicker knowingly. But what’s the purpose beyond a guaranteed laugh? Asherie replicates without commenting.  

Unfortunately, like your morning commute, A Single Ride never goes anywhere you haven’t already been.

This review refers to the performance seen on Thursday, September 20th.

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