Friday & Saturday, July 12 & 13
Schaeffer Theatre,7:30 p.m.
|Nejla Yatkin/NY2Dance by Astrid Reicken|
One of Dance Magazine's recent "Top 25 to Watch" Nejla Yatkin / NY2Dance performs the U.S. premiere of Oasis, an evening-length multimedia work based on the story of Layla and Majnoon, an allegorical tale regarded as the Middle Eastern forerunner of "Romeo and Juliet."
Oasis employs mystical realism to weave a layered story through movement, poetic imagery, shadow play, humor and text. Featuring a score by Maine-based Persian composer, Shamou, Oasis explores the beauty and complexity of memory, migration, transformation, identity and multiculturalism. (Some adult content.) For more info: Nejla Yatkin
“Everything about Nejla Yatkin’s newest dance is bold. It addresses challenging subject matter through movement that is daring in construction and assured in its execution.”
--The Washington Post
“Oasis… is always beautiful and at times horrifying… Don’t miss Oasis. It is gorgeous, evocative and discussion provoking, exactly what we seek in art.”
Sneak Preview: Nejla Yatkin offers a free Show & Tell, Tue, July 9, Schaeffer Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
Post Performance Q&A: Please join us for a discussion with the artists immediately following both concerts.
What inspired you to create "Oasis" now?
The recent events of the Arab Spring were especially inspiring to me and so the journey of the creation of Oasis began. Seeing people stand up for their rights and fight for freedom was very uplifting. Indeed, it reminded me of the fall of the Berlin Wall and how inspired I was as a teenager, experiencing such an important event directly. But, similar to that event, questions emerge: Where do we go from there? How can democracy be successful, if all of the voices are not included? The last point for me is especially poignant. I am fortunate to be in a position where as a woman I am able to express myself and add to the voices heard in the streets throughout the Arab world. In particular, I want to contribute to the female voices in/of the Middle East that are often silenced and that now search for their voice(s). In this new dance/theatre work, I wish to bring forth and explore the issues identified below. Invoking the idea of “mystical realism” in literature, the piece exists in multiple realities – magical elements blend seamlessly with the real world so that the "real" and the "fantastic" exist in the same stream of thought. Through the prism of desert (real)/oasis (mystical), the piece explores issues of identity, veiling, torture, repression, revolution and spirituality moving through what is familiar; what is imagined or mythical, what is actual, what is outside and inside the Middle East.
Can you talk about the development process? Where did you start and what has the journey been about?
It’s interesting, I started intuitively in memories of my childhood traveling to Turkey and Egypt and experiencing my role as a girl and later as a woman in these societies and the contrast I experienced in myself living in two different worlds as a woman from the West with cultural roots in the Middle East.
When I look at the piece I see circles layered within circles. The piece is layered with three circles. The first circle is the classic Persian love story of Layla and Majnoon, the second circle is the conversation between innocence and wisdom between a girl and her grandfather, and the third circle contains the dysfunctions/fragmentation that we are finding ourselves in as a culture.
During the reflective stages of my process the piece took me back to conversations I had with my grandfather, as well as memories of the love story of Layla and Majnoon, I had heard growing up. For those who don’t know: Layla and Majnoon is a very old and famous Persian love story that is well known throughout the Middle East. In Oasis I am not focusing on the literal story but the allegorical meaning of it. In the purest sense the story is like the story of creation. Layla, the female, stands for the soul and Majnoon, the male, stand for humanity. Humanity through accepting the reality of dualism and separation looses its connection to the soul and the world becomes fragmented.
And then there is the circle of innocence and wisdom. We see things as they are as children without judgment. Then again in the last stages of our lives we return to seeing things in the same way but with more wisdom. The question remains what happens in between those two stages? We love, we suffer, we make mistakes, we fall, we rise up again, we fight, we live in rage and fear, we make wars, and we create. So the fragmented nature of the piece focuses on issues like torture, veiling, oppression, power and education. In short the piece on the macro level is about humanity and on the micro level it’s about the Middle East, the oasis we all are searching for.
Your work often has geographic, social/political or cultural specificity. You have performed in many countries. How has the work resonated from place to place? Do you find the themes are universal?
My recent dances have been inspired by stories of significant places/times in the world. Such was the case with the Berlin Wall Project, a work exploring stories about the wall going up, existing and coming down, and Dancing with Cities, an ongoing traveling, site-specific work around diverse urban sites. In Oasis, I was inspired by the Middle East itself as well as being a woman from the West with cultural roots in that part of the world. One is exposed to a great deal about the Middle East but it is rarely portrayed for the complexity, diversity, beauty and oppression that reside within it. We have not yet premiered and toured Oasis internationally. We previewed it in Washington, DC at Dance Place and in New York City at the New York International Fringe Festival. The responses were very positive. Many people had the urge to talk to us about it and were very moved by the work. We received the Overall Excellence in Choreography Award for the preview of the piece by FringeNYC.
This spring we will tour the work to Peru performing at the Danza Nuevo Festival in Lima. After the official premiere at Bates Dance Festival we will present performances in New York, DC and Chicago.