How does humanity find its soul?

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Middle East (but were afraid to dance)

By Cornucopia Blog | August 9, 2013


Oasis begins with a simple piece of shadow theatre. Ayşe asks her wise grandfather: ‘How does humanity find its soul?’

‘One must learn to listen to the heart,’ comes the reply.

Ayşe’s unfolding conversation with her grandfather is intertwined in this fascinating piece of dance theatre with a retelling of the Persian Romeo and Juliet love story of Leyla and Mecnun and a fascinating merging of German tanztheater, American modern dance and Turkish folk dance. (See the Bates Dance Festival art notes)

‘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,’ writes Sarah Halzack in the Washington Post.

Oasis was conceived and choreographed by the Berlin-trained Turkish-American dancer as a full-length multi-media dance-theatre work for seven dancers. After performances in Peru in June, and at the Bates Dance Festival in Maine and New York’s Ailey Citigroup Theater in July, Yatkın’s NY2Dance group, formed in 2001, will be bringing it to the Kennedy Center, Washington DC, on August 19 (buy tickets here), and to Chicago in November.

The music for Oasis is by the legendary Iranian-American percussionist Shamou, who began his career with the Iranian National Ballet. Video design is by Patrick Lovejoy. The inspiration is ‘mystical realism in literature’. A cosmopolitan backcloth for work described as exploring ‘the beauty as well as complexity of memory, migration, transformation, identity and multiculturalism through movement’. Jennifer Dunning of the New York Times hails her as ‘a magician, telling tales and creating worlds with understated images and movement’.

As one historian put it, Turkey abroad is often more interesting than Turkey at home. If the Gezi spirit is successfully snuffed out at home, that will probably be the story of the next chapter of Turkish culture.

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