Nejla Yatkin has all the credentials a dancer needs.
Dance Magazine put her in the “Top 25 to Watch.” Critics have called her “a fierce performer capable of haunting, gripping theatricality.”
She’s young and multicultural, raised in Berlin to Turkish parents, and makes work about the Middle East that involves movement, shadow play, humor and text and deals with such themes as torture, veiling and spirituality.
She’s got it all, including a hot dance company in New York, NY2Dance.
But stop 10 people on the street in Portland, and it’s a good bet all 10 of them have never heard of Yatkin. You could stop 100 and get the same results, or similar.
This is the reality that Laura Faure faces every summer.
Faure, director of the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, consistently brings in the hippest, hottest, trendiest dancers and dance companies to teach and perform at the summer festival.
Or so we are told. In truth, only people who are tuned in or connected to modern dance are familiar with most of the performers that Faure brings to Maine.
On faith, we go.
“We are very lucky,” Faure said. “We have an audience that trusts us. They find the artists we bring to be thought-provoking and entertaining. And so they come.”
The public phase of the festival begins this week with the mainstage performance of Yatkin and her NY2Dance company at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
They will present “Oasis,” which uses an ancient, allegorical Middle Eastern tale to tell a modern story of revolution and freedom.
Bates Dance co-commissioned the piece. It’s an hour long, with multimedia elements and a musical score by Portland-based Persian composer Shamou.
In addition to the other accolades, Yatkin has received the New York International Fringe Festival’s Award for Overall Excellence in Choreography in 2012, the Princess Grace Fellowship in 2008 and five Metro DC Dance Awards.
Faure has believed in Yatkin for a long time. She encouraged “Oasis” by helping to secure a $10,000 grant.
“She’s just very smart, and she’s tackling important issues in Middle Eastern culture that are part of a larger world discussion that we hear every day,” Faure said. “That’s what we try to do at the festival: Engage the leaders in our field who have the courage to create important, timely work.”
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: