As someone who has been entrenched in the professional dance arena for over 50 years, it is always wonderful to watch a budding artist grow and blossom. Stephanie Zaletel is one such dance artist. The first performance of szalt (dance co.) that I attended was in May of 2015 at HNYPT LA. It was an evening length work entitled F L W R S. Vowels were primarily banned that night as HNYPT LA stood for Honey Pot LA and F L W R S was, of course, FLOWERS. Zaletel’s potential was obvious then and her latest work MOON& that premiered at the John Anson Ford Theatres; Co-produced by Los Angeles Performance Practice, proved that she is not a one dance wonder.

szalt (dance co.) is an all-female company and MOON& is Zaletel’s 5th evening length work. Zaletel is a master at stillness, unafraid to risk making her audience uncomfortable with how she interprets time, or the way in which she carves out the space. It is not unusual to see one of her dancers simply stop and walk off stage as if she just remembered something she had to do. Zaletel’s art lives in metaphors of different situations in life, especially those that relate to women.

This performance of MOON& was scheduled specially to coincide with the full moon and was built around or reflected the eight phases of the moon: new, waxing crescent, first quarter, full, waning gibbous (just after the moon is 100% illuminated), third quarter, waning crescent, and back to the first, new. Were these different phases always apparent? No. But that did nothing to retract from the power of it. One felt the moon’s presence and its pull.

Some of her references to the moon were obvious and others much subtler. Zaletel paid homage to the moon goddess; for me this was portrayed by Amir Rappaport who stood still for a very long time in the beginning as one by one the others acknowledged her. Rappaport was always a central figure even when she was not always totally visible, as when she was moving around in the dark on the upper levels behind the stage in extremely dim light. When the dark side of the moon is above us and we can not see it, we none-the-less know that it is always there. Some are more effected by the moon than others. Rappaport’s solo at the end of the work was intense, magical and powerfully performed.

The monthly cycle of the moon has tacitly been linked to a woman’s menstrual cycle and Zaletel did not ignore or shy away from this fact; she did not, however, reference it in an overt manner. Some of the women mimed taking a shower and in a very subtle way, took a position to cleanse that very personal area of their bodies. Zaletel also referenced how the full moon is often blamed for people outrageous or crazed behavior, but again it was done through crafted gestures, quietly speaking to oneself and shifts in a movement phrase’s dynamics and tempo.

Stephanie Zaletel in MOON& Sarah Prinz, Mecca Romero in MOON& Photo Becca Green Moon1 Moon2 Moon3 Moon4 Moon5 Moon6 Moon7 Moon8 Moon10 Moon11 Moon11a Moon12
szalt (dance co.) in MOON& - Photo: Roger Martin Holman for LA Dance Chronicle

One section that stood out was when the stage was dark except of a large center white pool of light. Two dancers revolved around the edge of it and through the magnetic pull of the moon were drawn together into a duet that can only be described as beautifully complex, but wonderfully quiet. The two supported each other by a head, a foot or in one case a dancer executing a very slow hinge to the floor with the other resting a foot on her chest. At the end of each supportive move, the one being supported collapsed. The two women who performed this section so wonderfully and with such directness were Mecca Romero and Sarah Prinz.

Alongside Zaletel her partner in life and Musical Director Louis Lopez. Lopez and Jonathan Snipes composed a score that got inside one and began to grow. The mixture of sounds evoked rocks on the moon, gravitation pull and an irritation of spirit. It is a score that would be wonderful to listen to without the dance, but in tandem with MOON&, it helped inspire both dreams and nightmares.

The cast of performers in szalt (dance co.) worked closely with each other and knew what the others were feeling, where they were at and what they were always doing. Beautiful unison phrases erupted spontaneously, broke apart and rejoined with the kind of precision that can only be accomplished with rigorous rehearsal and everyone being a part of the whole. Those extraordinary creatures were the beautiful Lindsey Lollie, Eden Orrick, Sarah Prinz, Amir Rappaport, Mecca Romero, and Stephanie Zaletel. Each one of these women had a unique way of moving, but together they created a untied vision.

The Lighting Designer who made the Ford Amphitheatre come alive was Pablo Santiago-Brandwein and the simple but somehow elegant for the occasion white costumes that also reflected the moon were by Stephanie Zaletel and Sarah Prinz.

MOON& must be experienced, not just read about. Zaletel, Lopez, Snipes and the entire szalt (dance co.) team have created a singular experience that was not simply seen; it was felt.

For more information on szalt (dance co.), click here.

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