Inner Galactic: odyssey of the heart, performed November 13–14 at Velocity Dance Center, took audiences on a journey through an emotional vortex. Created and produced by choreographer Maya Soto and musician Nico Tower, the piece transformed each studio space into a different galaxy, as though far, far away. Kawasaki Studio was split into two installations for the production, and audiences were free to roam about before the show began. One half, “the study,” was complete with maps, compasses, typewriters, vials of potions, and telescopes—a room fit for explorers looking for new lands. In “the reflectorium,” the studio’s other half, almost every inch of the floor was covered in reflective aluminum, both crinkled and smooth, adding a chilling effect to the space.
The work followed a simple premise: Soto and Tower set off on a Homeric quest through “inner space,” but their talking spaceship, the S.S. Veruka, broke midway and a lost compass only added to their misery. Eventually, after strolls through dark depths of despair, the pair managed to carry on. Despite the uncomplicated structure, Soto and Tower both delivered a comprehensive performance that packed multiple punches. It all began with their entrance to the stage: they wore space suits and helmets, but soon removed them in a choreographed robotic sequence to reveal t-shirts printed with an astronaut picture.
Science fiction and themes of space exploration have long been avenues for exploring the broader human condition as it relates to topics like isolation, desire, acceptance, control, and genuine human connection—whether in film, literature, or other mediums. Inner Galactic and its explorations was no exception. With witty, often comical interactions of dance and physical theater, Soto and Tower explored what it means to overcome, to accommodate within relationships, to dust yourself off and pull yourself back up after what feels like immeasurable loss, and to be alone together. Inner Galactic also drew inspiration from other works regarding cosmology or astronomy, such as the writings of Carl Sagan—his famous quote, “We are made of star stuff,” made frequent appearances in the piece through voiceovers, monologues, and projections.
The choreography, mostly danced by Soto, exhibited what a powerhouse performer she is. Navigating different rhythms in her body, she switched seamlessly between grounded modern movements to graceful balletic steps and even to quirky yet gritty break-dance and hip hop progressions. She tore up the space with each step showing equal parts grace and ferocity throughout. And, despite Tower not having much formal dance performance experience, her slinky figure and grounded quality complemented Soto nicely, particularly in the partnering sections.
Tower’s tunes were just as mesmerizing as the dancing, ranging from electronic beats to acoustic guitar serenades to Tower vocalizing a melody a capella. In one notable section, Tower passionately recited a spoken-word poem, repeating, over and over: “There are pieces of me missing.” Throughout the monologue, Soto feverishly darted through the space, hurling herself off and into the floor as though controlled by an outside force. This was only one example of Tower’s sound score and Soto’s choreography working in harmony to produce a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
While Inner Galactic displayed high craftsmanship in song, dance, set design and installations (like the silver stalactite-like sculptures hanging from the lights), the work’s true power lay in its relatability. Everyone has their own struggles, and everyone can relate to the feeling Soto must have felt when she curled up on the floor lamenting a lost journey, with Tower at her side serenading her. The audience could easily identify with the frustration bubbling between the pair after Soto lost the compass—standing back-to-back, each unwilling to look each other in the eye. And the optimism and drive they felt as their vessel worked again is surely a feeling familiar to many.
With intricate choreography, exquisite scores, and playful dialogues, set designs, and projections, Inner Galactic eloquently explored the poetic concepts of cosmology and its parallels within the human experience. Both Soto and Tower were unafraid to go to the depths of their emotions, but their struggles and breakdowns along the way resulted in a potent rebirth of themselves. As in the words of poet Nikka Ursula: “For a star to be born, there is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse. So collapse. Crumble. This is not your destruction. This is your birth.”