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By David Finkelstein | May 29, 2014

She Learns to Lunge,” a new short video poem by Katya Yakubov, is a delicate and exquisitely wrought collage of words, images, and ambient sounds. The video is open-ended enough to invite multiple interpretations, yet the text and the images clearly speak of a young woman’s intuitive search for identity and cultural roots. Neither the images nor the sounds directly illustrate the poem (read by Yakubov on the soundtrack), but rather they expand on the ideas and feelings which are hinted at in the poem.

The language of the poem is concise and expressive. Writing of the ancient, traditional voices that are struggling to come alive with her, Yakubov says “Where else will her short legs grow longer, except shackled to my porous bones?” Later in the video, we see multiple images of the young woman, looking at herself in the bathroom mirror. At first, she is dressed in a contemporary t-shirt, but then she is replaced by a version of herself wearing a much more traditional looking blouse. (The blouse looks Russian, like Yakubov.) Finally, we see an older, Peruvian Indian woman wearing the blouse while standing in the shower, but she quickly disappears by closing the curtain. (This might be the most poetic use of a bathroom setting I’ve seen in a film.)

In another sequence, the young woman removes a series of shirts she is wearing, one by one. This is clearly an image of a search through layers of identity for the inner, more authentic voice. The poem speaks of the inner self “ballooning her mighty wings,” and a series of cabinet doors and drawers magically fly open in a kitchen. A new self is coming out.

Yakubov has an extremely precise way of layering evocative images and sounds with poetic text, and a sure sense of rhythm and composition. She brings all of these elements together in a beautiful form, which speaks in a quiet but assured voice about the need to connect with ancient traditions.

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