Nadya Zeitlin creates in listening and leading

Photo credit Christine Quarte

A woman dances in the courtyard of a house or apartment building. Her profile shows her body is reaching upward and her right side body stretching toward her extended right arm. Her left arm is bent and in front of her chest. She is wearing black overalls and a white T-shirt. Her red hair is complemented against the brick of the building and the orange light waves surrounding her body.

April 1, 2020
Volume 1 Issue 1
by: Julie Baggenstoss

Nadya Zeitlin calls herself a dance designer, a title with which she connected as she discovered “creative joy” between choreographer and moving artists when developing “Bautanzt” earlier this year. Zeitlin has been in Atlanta for seven years, dancing independently and with some of the city’s established companies in performances, such as Midtown Players Club (2017), Doors Can Dance (2017), Skwhirlhaus (2016), the Decatur Arts Festival (2015, 2016, 2019), and won the 24 Hours Dance Festival in a tie to open the MAD Festival (2015). Having been seen on film and in live performance, Zeitlin’s work leading a group to the stage this year revealed her deft skills as a director, producer, and artist.

“It’s important for me to express my own creative voice,” says Zeitlin. “But, I always listen to other people in the studio. It doesn’t make any sense: inviting talented artists to work together and shunning their voices in order to hold authority or artistic credit.” She established a creative process in which she set vocabulary central to the language of the work, a sequence for sections, and a firm beginning and ending, and left much space open to input by movers. “I shared the language with moving artists, including stories, videos and paintings that inspired it, and when we started improvising, magic happened. They created a lot of strong dance material that became an irreplaceable part of the work, while expressing their own personalities and relationships between each other.”

We see the relationship of the individual and the group in Zeitlin’s perspective of dance in Atlanta. “A city thrives from various artists living and working inside of it. Unique styles and ideas are a part of their personality. Landscape, urban or suburban, history, political situation, energy of the city, all of this matters, of course, and has an impact on artists.” She says, individual artists will take their signature work with them, and Atlanta benefits when they are here. “The more unique artistic voices [that] are heard in the city, the stronger it becomes.” 

Photo credit Jacqueline Diaz

A woman dances in the courtyard of a house or apartment building. She is turned slightly to the side, her body curving gently so that one could trace an arc from the crown of her head down through her torso and right leg to the big toe of her right foot. Her weight is shifted over her right leg, as if she is stepping from her left leg onto her right. Curves and spirals of light swirl in front of her as if they are the traces left in the air of her movement.

Perhaps Atlanta is becoming a stronger city. Zeitlin believes that dance in Atlanta is expanding. She says, “Atlanta dance is a beautiful and loud creature, ever growing tree, and each branch of this tree has a unique personality which is represented through shapes and colors of their leaves.  While they’re all different, together they keep this tree alive and happy thriving.” Zeitlin notes that two or more branches “intertwine together to create something even more special,” while older ones sometimes reach out to support younger ones.  “I feel that currently this tree is experiencing a surge in new branches.”

Zeitlin is one of those new branches, and she is moving out of theater spaces to create work. She is establishing a dance company called Bautanzt Here. Bautanzt is German for building dances, so her company will focus on site-specific performances, in the spirit of the company’s name “building dances here.”  She says, “This year’s inspiration will probably remain geometry and avant-garde art, but I keep my hands open to embrace other muses as well. Artists are sensitive to situations like current ones – isolation, uncertainty and anxiety about the future. I believe I’ll see the impact of it when I finally get back to the studio. Dancers usually express their inner feelings more fully through bodies rather than words.”

Bautanzt is online at

*Editor’s Note: This article originally stated Nadya performed in The Mad Festival in 2015. It is now edited to show she won the 24 Hour Dance Festival to open The MAD Festival in 2015.