Philly Fringe 2017: Asya Zlatina and Dancers present ‘STORM’

The planets align

For last year’s Fairmount Fringe, former Koresh dancer turned choreographer Asya Zlatina created BARRY: Mamaloshen in Dance! This year, she set her second evening-length work, STORM, to Gustav Holst’s 99-year-old orchestral suite The Planets. The show opened Thursday night at the beautifully renovated Performance Garage, with a break for the Sabbath and two shows on Sunday.

Edgar Clausse and Asya Zlatina. (Photo by Mike Hurwitz.)

The new 40-foot dance platform gave Zlatina’s large cast (populated by several of her students) plenty of space to orbit around each other in the suite’s seven movements (Earth is not included). So it was appropriate that Zlatina launched herself away from Yiddishe maternal earthiness into outer space.

In each other's orbit

Greg Anmuth, lead choreographer for Band of Artists, brought a strong stage presence to Mercury, the first planet danced. In a duet with Daniella Place, who has strong theatrical chops, he held her head down like a basketball while she tried to bounce up despite his pressure.

Sybil Geddes danced Venus while Zlatina balanced on a high stool, standing perfectly erect. Was she the moon? Eventually Zlatina descended and their duet became a series of entwinements.

Mars, the Bringer of War, had 12 dancers in black with red scarves around their necks. Were they a nod to Zlatina’s Moscow birthplace or to Russian realism? In the style of Pina Bausch’s swift movement, they thundered across the stage, stomping, saluting and showing off their arm muscles like workers in a collective. One long-haired dancer was perhaps the free one, or perhaps she was love, the other side of war. In either case, the others reviled and bullied her off the stage in this most affecting section.

The Bringer of Jolly is Jupiter, and Sophie Malin, rouged as a doll, did just that, along with the rest of the cast. Zlatina soloed to Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age, showing both the grace and anger of aging. She writhed in a circle of light (Guillermo Ortega Tanus designed the lighting), sometimes slapping parts of her body.

Uranus was to have been a men’s trio but turned into a duet between Anmuth and Brian Cordova. The pair fought with Anmuth, carrying Cordova offstage to return alone as the victor.

Anmuth partnered Zlatina in Neptune. By its end, Zlatina tossed out what looked like a ribbon for a gold medal. But when she placed it around Anmuth’s neck, she brought him down and dragged him off with it as the lights dimmed.

Students showcased

Zlatina also included two works by her students. Passage, by Caitlin Quinn Pittenger, opened the show with three dancers in white shorts and blouses to music by Brian Eno (from Passengers) and Oleg Vladimirovich Shpudeiko’s “Sway Sway.” Shpudeiko’s piano chords worked best to underpin the students’ lyrical movement and some acrobatic and geometric near-handstands. But their jetés were heavy and proved difficult for these young dancers.

Rough Tough Baby, choreographed and danced by Sydney Donovan and Rachel Neitzke, was a girlish romp. The two pigtailed performers in yellow rompers humped along the floor on their butts, arms crossed. They sparred, then made up with each other as sisters might before crawling offstage.

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