Categories: Mimi Sells, THE BUZZ

THE BUZZ: NYC’s Underground Dance Club Scene explored in Underscored at ArtPower  

By Mimi Sells
January 20, 2023

We’ve all heard about the glitzy, dance-crazed world of Studio 54 and other iconic New York nightclubs of the 80s and 90s. It was a time of beautiful young people dancing and hard partying till way past dawn.  And then doing it again the next night. 

Now imagine you are part of that downtown scene popping and spinning your best moves and hanging with scenesters as one of the “Club Heads.”

In Underscored, a thrilling new work by acclaimed dancer/choreographer Ephrat Asherie, we all got to get down with those pulsing DJ beats. Underscored opened January 19 for a 3-night stint as part of ArtPower, UCSD’s multi-arts season.  Not only did Esherie bring back the style, swag and steps of the hottest underground clubs with her dance troupe, she actually brought back some of the elders of this legendary time.

Archie Burnett. Photo courtesy of artist

Three performers, now in their mid 60s-70’s shared stories and images of their wild and partying nights at Studio 50, The Loft, Paradise Garage and other dance hall strongholds of NYC’s throbbing club scene. 

But these three didn’t just talk! Archie Burnett, Brahms “Bravo” LaFortune and Michele Saunders also danced up a storm!  These legends of the underground clubs can still bust a move and impress!  It was thrilling to see these old pros show off their smooth moves.

Archie was infamous in his day for his freestyle Whacking/Waacking and Vogue moves. Bravo was known for his dazzling jazz-inspired footwork and flourishes. Michele, a French-raised rebel, embraced the NYC dance scene and its fashionistas when she first discovered the club Paradise Garage.

Underscored. Photo by Mimi Sells

Underscored is both an homage and tribute to a key moment in our dance history and a wild and toe-tapping invitation to enter the vibe of that moment and make the party last forever.

The show closed with the entire troupe freestyle dancing and then inviting the audience to join in onstage. Let’s just say that this reviewer remembers well those 80s dance moves and let loose in this auspicious company.  It was an instant party.  And that’s just how the entire dance team likes it! In fact, Archie commented afterward that Underscored was a way to “make the party last forever.

As a reviewer, I wish I could tell you to run out and see Underscored but its three-day run ends January 21. Instead, I urge you to click on this this link to learn more about the show, its creators, cast and funding pedigree that includes support from UCSD, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Guggenheim and others.

I also recommend you check out all of ArtPower’s upcoming shows. Their eclectic and inspiring programs range from music to dance with particular focus on global performers.  I’m already marking my calendar for A.I.M, a dance performance on Feb. 22 choreographed by Kyle Abraham and on March 17,  the Esme Quartet, a female group from Korea. 

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