Award –winning and internationally acclaimed choreographer and dancer, Nejla Y. Yatkin has been dancing, choreographing, and teaching internationally for more than 30 years. A native of Berlin, Germany and with Turkish roots, she graduated with her masters in Dance and Choreography from "Die Etage" a Performing Arts College in Berlin, Germany. Nejla is currently based in Chicago dancing, choreographing, and giving workshops at international and national festivals.
Nejla brings a luminous and transcultural perspective to her work. While her choreography is never literal, it nevertheless remains evocative of searing themes that resonate in universal human experience. Her focus is regularly drawn to the role of memory and history in constructing identity, causing conflict, and the possibility of transforming cultural tension into deep, authentic moments of human connection.
Her recent dances have been inspired by stories of events of significant places in the world. Such was the case with: “The Berlin Wall Project or “Oasis: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Middle East but Where Afraid To Dance”, and “Dancing with Cities”, a moving site-specific work that investigates urban sites. The success and power of “Cities” inspired “Dancing Around The World”- a site specific dance project which began in April 2015 and traveled to 20 cities around the world until May 2016.
Since 2000, Nejla has been choreographing solo works inspired by great female choreographers. To date, she has choreographed five evening-length solo works that have toured nationally and internationally to critical claim. In addition she choreographs evening length dance works for her own project-based company NY2Dance and commissioned dances on other companies such as the Washington Ballet, River North Dance Chicago, Dallas Black Dance Theater, and the Modern American Dance Company, among many others.
Since 2001, Nejla has received Artist Fellowship Awards from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for excellence in dance and choreography, and the Creative Performing Arts grant from the University of Maryland. Other awards include the “Local Dance Commissioning Project” by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, two Creation Funds, and two performing Arts Residency tours from the National Performance Network.
For her past creations, Nejla has received five Metro D.C. Dance Awards, including for “Outstanding Individual Performance,” “Best Scenic Design,” “Best Multi- Media Performance,” and “Best Overall Production.” In 2005, she was named as one of “Top 25 To Watch” by Dance Magazine and was given the award for “Outstanding Emerging Artist” by the D.C. Mayor’s Arts Award Committee. Since her Choreography Fellowship Award from the Princess Grace Foundation, she was also awarded a 2009 Special Project grant as well a Princess Grace Works in Process Award to be in residence at the Baryshnikov Art Center in 2015.
Since moving to Chicago in 2010 she received a 2012 3Arts Award and the Illinois Individual Project grant as well as an Individual Artist grant from the City of Chicago. For the musical The Boy Who Danced On Air she was awarded best Choreography from Stage Scene LA and Outstanding Choreography from the San Diego Theater Critics Circle.
Nejla is also passionate about sharing her knowledge and experience with the next generation. From 2008 to 2012 she was an Artist-in-Residence at the University of Notre Dame, and from 2001 to 2008 she was a tenured Professor in the Department of Dance at the University of Maryland. Nejla is also the producer and subject of the upcoming Documentary “Where Women Don’t Dance” to be released in 2017.