by Len Lear
The Philadelphia Fringe Festival will do doubt have many fine dance performances this month, but it is hard to imagine that any would be as exciting as “Storm,” a choreographed evening-length work by Asya Zlatina, a swoon-worthy performer who electrified audiences on Aug 5 and 6 last year at Cliveden, the historic Chew family residence at 6401 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy.
“I have seen great dancers with the Pennsylvania Ballet and New York City Ballet, but none of them is any greater than Asya,” said Louise Parker, a Chestnut Hill dance devotee. “Her strength and power are just beyond belief. Anything she does is going to be worth seeing.”
The statuesque 5-foot-10 Asya, 30, was born in Moscow, Russia, and emigrated to the U.S. 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. (Asya was on season 4 of “So You Think You Can Dance” and got a ticket to the Las Vegas round but was not able to go due to a performance conflict.)
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 Nonprofit Administration from Drexel University, and she is an adjunct professor of ballet and modern dance at Stockton University.
“Storm,” choreographed and danced by Asya and other dancers, will be performed at The Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine St. in Fairmount, on Thursday, Sept. 14, 7:30 p.m., preceded by a reception, and Sunday, Sept. 17, 2:30 and 4:30 p.m., followed by a Q + A with the dancers.
Autobiographical in nature, “Storm” fleshes out Gustav Holst’s powerful classical piece, “Planets Suite.” The characters in “Storm” exhibit extreme emotional states, but ultimately they represent a wide range of emotions, both positive and negative. The score, originally premiered in 1918 in London, is nearing a centennial.
“Storm” started as a solo for one woman in a painful period of change and growth in her life. While trying to find the right music for her inner storm and turmoil, Asya stumbled upon Gustav Holst’s powerful “Planets Suite” on the radio. “The idea for a show giving physicality to the musical masterpiece just materialized,” she said. Just as human beings experience many emotions, we witness onstage the characters of “Storm” being childish, playful, mature, sexual, brooding, joyous, even cruel.
Asya and her family came to the U.S. as refugees from the Soviet Union, “like most Jews at that time,” she told us in an earlier interview. “It was great timing. We avoided the war in Chechnya that devastated the whole city of Groznyi.
“Of course we suffered persecution in the Soviet Union, 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 was a refusenik. These are just some examples (of the anti-Semitism).”
Asya has been a dancer since as far back as she can remember. When she was 14, she and her mother realized that she was destined to pursue a career as a professional dancer. She has become a standout at classical Indian dance, Russian folk, Chinese classical, Irish and Native American. “I love all styles!”
Is it possible to make a decent living as a dancer? “Decent, yes, but it’s a struggle. To me decent means paying the 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.”
When she is not kicking up her heels, Asya likes to “cook and eat, play pool and read or watch documentaries.”
Tickets to “Storm” are $15 and are available for purchase at the door, as well as online at http://www.danceboxoffice.com/?page_id=1107. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.