Nejla Yatkin and her NY2/Dance company performed Oasis on Friday and Saturday night at the Bates Dance Festival and the subtitle was - "Everything you wanted to know about the Middle East but were afraid to dance." Well, The company jumps straight into the fire of middle eastern politics through the voice of movement and they don't really hold anything back. The topics covered were rape, repression, torture, voiceless women, and being degraded. All depicted through dance and movement which was a powerful medium to approach such heavy topics. The fine company of seven dancers took us through a journey that began with love. Oasis starts out with two lovers exploring each others bodies with such fluidity and restrained passion that their desire to be together is overwhelming. They are blindfolded, that only makes the movement more important because they can't see each other, but they can touch, sense, and feel each other. Danced by Fadi Khoury and Nejla Yatkin. They need to be together. This is based on an old traditional love story similar to Romeo and Juliet. And like that tale, these lovers are separated and never to find true love.
Next to unfold is a brutal torture scene, then humiliation where three couples show what happens when a person dominates and represses another into submission. Very effective was putting a cloth over the head and hijacking the person rendering them helpless. Three different versions were danced with haunting beauty that became nightmarish. As an audience member you wanted to say stop, this is too much. But the pain kept continuing.
Ms. Yatkin has really put these human rights issues up close and into our faces in Oasis she is not letting us off the hook. The pain continues into the third section of this evening length piece where we go from "loss" to "discovery" but that doesn't solve the problem. The dancers move energetically but there is an over riding sense that they are still trapped under the veil of oppression even though they are now aware of it. Great physicality from all the dancer. Also in the company were Shay Bares, Sevin Ceviker, Rachel Holmes, Jean-Rene Homehr, and Karina Lesko.
Also of great importance was the original musical score by Portland based musician and composer Shamou. The music complimented and helped create the sense of place with languid and sensuous rhythms which the lovers in the opening scene used to undulate and embrace to: and then to the raw sounds of tense percussion as the torturers preyed on their victims. The music helped move the stories with many different instruments and layers of sound. The lighting design by Ben Levine was dark and exotic which matched the story. Costume design by Ursula Verduzco and Ms. Yatkin was effective and gave a strong sense of flowing fabric that one associates with the Middle East. Over all this was a -lush, complex, disturbing, and important performance.
Oasis-NY2/Dance at the Bates Dance Festival in the Scheffer Auditorium, Lewiston, Maine Saturday July 13, 2013