by Len Lear
Asya Zlatina, one of the region’s most stunning, electric dancers, will be performing along with several other talented localites on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 5 and 6, 7:30 p.m., at Cliveden, the historic Chew family residence at 6401 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy.
The statuesque 5-foot-10 Asya, 29, was born in Moscow, Russia, and emigrated to the United States in 1992. A former contestant on the TV hit show, “So You Think You Can Dance,” she trained at the Kirov Academy in Washington, D.C., Dance Explosion and Washington School of Ballet. In 2008, she graduated from Goucher College with a B.A. in Psychology and Dance and since then has been a member of the acclaimed Koresh Dance Company in Philadelphia. The center city resident also has an M.S. in Arts Administration from Drexel University.
Last week we conducted the following interview with Asya:
Why did your family come to the U.S. in 1992?
We came as refugees from the Soviet Union, like most Jews at that time. Great timing. We avoided the war in Chechnya that devastated the whole city of Groznyi.
Did you always want to be a dancer, even as a child?
I always danced; it’s second nature. When I was 14, my mom and I realized the professional path was my way.
Did your family suffer persecution in the Soviet Union because you were Jewish?
Of course, as did most other families like ours. There was academic discrimination and quotas. Once we had applied to leave, my aunt was fired from her job, and her daughter was harassed for proof of citizenship. My mother is a refusenik. Just some examples.
Was anyone else in your family a dancer?
No one is a professional dancer, but Soviet people and Russian people are very knowledgeable about dance, whether ballet or folk.
What kinds of dance do you like the most?
My favorite style is folk dance. It’s the fabric of a culture and really makes me want to kick up my heels and join in. I love classical Indian dance, Russian folk, Chinese classical, Irish and Native American. Of course I love all styles!
Who are your own favorite dancers, past or present?
Maya Plisetskaya is a favorite. She was a true actress and dancer. She wasn’t afraid to look mad, enraged. And Martha Graham. I love all of the intense, dramatic dancers with intense facial structures. My friend Tyger B is amazing to watch.
It seems that more and more young people are going into dance, maybe because of the TV shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” that are so popular. Do you think that is so?
Sure. I think dance shows are getting more people in the studios, and that’s great! I was on season 4 myself. I got a ticket to Vegas but wasn’t able to go due to a performance conflict.
What was the best performance you ever gave?
I’m still performing, so I think I can’t say that yet, but I believe in approaching each performance as your best, even if you make a change or mistake. It’s a live show; it will never be the same twice.
How many hours a day do you practice?
With Koresh we did 10-4 weekdays plus extra outside of that and weekends. Now, I supplement two hours of ballet with Koresh classes as my own rehearsals.
How stressed are you before a performance?
If you do the work before the show, not stressed. I feel prepared and nervous and excited.
What exactly will you be dancing on Aug. 5 and 6 at Cliveden?
It will be my own work. It also depends on my dancers and what fits. Since it’s outside and on grass, I want to be careful with their bodies. I may do a solo.
Is it possible to make a decent living as a dancer?
Decent, yes. But it’s a struggle. To me decent means make rent. If you want more, you work a second or third job. But it’s worth it. I hope to see a change to this in my lifetime.
How many times have you injured yourself dancing?
Never! Most injuries happen outside of dance in my experience.
Were any of them serious? If so, how long did you have to rehab?
I had a minor sprain getting pushed off of a bike once. I propped that puppy up in a wrap and took it very seriously with the treatment and rest, even though it was mild. I wanted to heal quick as possible!
What your ultimate goal as a dancer?
To make an impact on my dance community, my local and global communities and on young people. Give people a goal and inspiration. And, of course, to tell a story.
What was the hardest thing you ever had to do?
When I had to tell my mother her mother had passed. I came home before her while she was parking her car and heard a voicemail that my grandmother, who had been ill, had died. I had to relay this to my mother.
What is the best advice you ever received?
“Until you are in that drivers seat, you don’t know about driving the bus.”
Which talent that you do not have would you most like to have?
I would love to have a great singing voice. I could bring it everywhere with me and let people enjoy it.
What is your most treasured possession?
Probably photos of my grandparents.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Cook and eat, play pool and read or watch documentaries.
What is your most impressive characteristic?
If you could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, who would it be?
I’d love to see how Meryl Streep or Al Pacino prepare, relax and learn their scripts. Also army commanders. They have such a high-stress, high-risk thinking job. I would want to see them in action.