by Elizabeth Whelan for The Dance Journal
Seeping with celestial mystery, yet rooted in profound exploration of humanity’s emotional sphere, Asya Zlatina and Dancers embodied the orchestral masterpiece of Gustav Holst’s The Planets; creating her own work of art in motion.
STORM is a journey through the solar system within the astrological lens. After seeing the finished work, one may assume the music—a seven part score, with one section for each planet—was the driving inspiration for Moscow native Asya Zlatina’s second evening-length work that was presented at the Performance Garage this past Sunday. “We actually began working with no music at first,” Zlatina remarked, “to keep the integrity of the crazy emotional ride,” that she was seeking to portray in movement.
It wasn’t until Zlatina heard the Holst’s music for Saturn on the radio that the final product began to take shape. Originally composed in 1918, The Planets was widely received as a huge success. Holst apparently resented the popularity of the work, and struggled to find joy in the accomplishment of his world-renowned composition. “You can only take pure joy for so long,” says Zlatina of her approach to using STORM as a way to flush out an emotionally intense personal narrative.
She took liberties in re-arranging the score to fit her vision. Placing Mercury first (in line with the traditional ordering of the planets), the work opened with a charming and artistically impressive duet between Greg Anmuth and Daniella Place. In the newly renovated space, the lighting designer, Guillermo Ortega Tanus took the audience on a trip through outer space changing the backdrop from bright blues, to the deep orange and reds of Venus as Zlatina took the stage herself for a duet with Sybil Geddes. The pair mesmerized the audience with their otherworldly aura. Geddes and Zlatina recycle pain through their movement, and in doing so dance the whole section as strong women with commanding stage presence.
Mars, which by Holst’s ordering would have come first in the score, storms in with incredible power and brute. The cast of fourteen overtakes the space and the music grows in intensity with them as they move in rhythmic procession. The Planets was created at a volatile time, nearing the end of World War I. Holst had attempted to enlist but was rejected as unfit for military service, which sparked the frustration that may have led to the anger within the Mars movement.
From darkness comes light, and Jupiter did just that; balancing out the wrath of Mars. Sophie Malin delivered a sprite and happy solo that kept her in quick motion (and in the air) for most of the section.
Following Jupiter, Zlatina returned for Saturn. What began from simply overhearing the music on the radio to this full-length work, Saturn was the staple of the evening. There’s no denying Zlatina’s perfected technique, which comes paired with her unrelenting devotion to her artistry. After moving to the States in ’92, she continued her dance training at multiple highly acclaimed schools, including the Kirov Academy and Goucher College, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Psychology. A former member of Philly’s own Koresh Dance Company, her movement is a testament to her life: “I’m a very extreme person. If I’m happy, I’m elated. If I’m sad, I’m devastated.”
Uranus, marked on the program as a men’s trio, brought a delightful surprise with Keila Perez-Vega dancing alongside Anmuth and Brian Cordova. They moved well together, swinging into athletic motion as they traveled through the space.
Neptune brought with it the mysteries of the universe. Zlatina and Anmuth took turns repeating similar movements, both drawing one another in with fascinating precision and intricacies. The pair seemed equally aware of one another’s beauty and captivatingly subtle power that graced each moment. The tables turned, however, when in the last few moments of STORM, Zlatina’s character exerted a clearly pre-meditated, even malicious control over Anmuth, dragging his captive body into the shadows.
As an additional treat for the audience, the program included work performed by Zlatina’s students. Passage, by Caitlin Quinn Pittenger, was a compilation of dance and film with the trio’s silhouettes blending into the black and white video projected on the back wall for a pleasing performance. Rough Tough Baby, choreographed and performed by Sydney Donovan and Rachel Neitzke was a charming and witty ode to friendship that was a joy to watch.
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