A Video Postcard from Nejla Yatkin
Everything You Wanted to Know About the Middle East, But Was Afraid to Dance.
Oasis: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Middle East but Were Afraid to Dance is a new evening length multi media dance theatre piece. My recent dances have been inspired by stories of significant places in the world. As a woman from the West with cultural roots in the Middle East, I have learned to navigate two cultures and in this project, I will bring forth and explore this duality through dance.
Guided by these insights, my piece is centered on a juxtaposition between the desert and the oasis. The former can be experienced as beautiful and exotic even as it is harsh and potentially lethal. In the latter, there is an almost dreamlike element, just the idea of which sustains life--even in its most vulnerable state. Against/with/for one another the two exist, in tension as well as in tandem moving back and forth. With this narrative tension, I explore three general topics: the physical (exploring the veil and belly-dancing), the mental (exploring the poetry/philosophy of Rumi and the concept of Zero), and the interactive (exploring the art/intricacy/meaning of a tea ceremony as well as the love story of Leyla and Mecnun, the Middle Eastern version of Romeo and Juliet). Through the prism of desert/oasis, I explore each of these themes moving through what is familiar; what is imagined or mythical, what is actual; what is out of the Middle East and what is inside it.
In the Middle East today, we often glimpse scenes of immense wonder, ingenuity and beauty as well as of horror and violence from afar. My own personal understanding of the Middle East, has also developed at a distance and been filtered through the music, literature, and culture as I grew up in Europe and later North America. I only came to see Western biases more clearly when I explored the area’s culture more deeply and interacted with artists and ordinary people. There are deeper stories about this place and its people that need to be told. With this new work, I would like to counter- balance some of the negative imagery with human stories, pictures, science, art, and poetry.
If you would like to participate in Nejla's project, click here.