Oasis- Everything you ever wanted to know about the Middle East but were afraid to dance
nytheatre.com review by Heather Olmstead
August 18, 2012
Oasis - Everything you ever wanted to know about the Middle East but were afraid to dance is a multi-media dance piece conceived, choreographed and directed by Nejla Yatkin. This show is always beautiful and at times horrifying.
Oasis opens with a lovely shadow puppetry animation by Iga Puchalska and Julien Smasal projected onto three staggered sheets. These amazing puppets are far more detailed than the bunnies created with your fingers and a flashlight against the bedroom wall. The animation is about a young girl, Ayse, asking her father, Haci Dede, about life and why people are the way they are, as children are wont to do. To fully view the animation, it’s better if you can sit in the middle of the house. My friend and I were fairly far house right and couldn’t see Haci Dede. The animation ends and a silhouette of a man and woman are revealed behind each of the sheets to the sides of the stage. Fadi Khoury and Nejla Yatkin then come together in a dance full of passion. After Nejla exits we watch Fadi spin himself into madness, then the stage is plunged into darkness. The most disturbing piece is of Fadi being tortured by three men in black hoods with ropes that they use to whip, bind and strangle him, lit only by flashlights attached to the hooded aggressors’ wrists.
Issues of human rights, especially women’s rights, are explored throughout the piece. There is the heartbreaking and infuriating story of a woman jailed for being raped by her uncle. Shay Bares has an exquisite solo dance accompanied by finger cymbals that for reasons I cannot articulate made me quite sad. The entire seven member company participates in a fashion show of hijabs, the veil which covers the hair and neck worn by Muslim women, which was taken to the extreme of covering the entire face. Though the answers of why they wear the hijab were meant to be humorous I was disappointed that there wasn’t a serious reason given. Next we watch Nejla learning about rights through reading. She then shares these books with the rest of the company so that the knowledge can free them too. The final piece showcased the entire company dancing to a recording of each member identifying their country of origin and religious affiliations. It was the perfect finale to illustrate the diversity that makes up the Middle East.
While I have no training in dance or Middle Eastern studies, my reviewing buddy has studied both. According to him there were various elements of traditional Middle Eastern dance including a Turkish Whirling Dervish, Belly Dance, and Bedouin Dance throughout the work. Don’t miss Oasis. It is gorgeous, evocative and discussion provoking, exactly what we seek in art.