From a brutal beating to an elegant parade of models in heels and hijabs, drastic shifts in tone make Nejla Yasemin Yatkin’s “Oasis — Everything you every wanted to know about the Middle East but were afraid to dance” a very strange ride.
Yatkin, raised in Germany, is of Turkish descent; she’s a tall and striking performer trained in many dance styles. With seven performers, she evokes both history and the headlines, showing us lovely women apprehended and violated by bare-chested men.
At one point in the 75-minute program, a supercilious guy forces a young man to grovel before him, serving as furniture for a private tea ceremony. The problem is that the “master” is played by the same dancer (Fadi Khoury) who made love to Yatkin in the opening number and then was brutally tortured, creating confusion for viewers. The “slave,” a gifted Texan named Shay Bates, gets up off the floor and begins a solo punctuated by finger cymbals; his sinuous dancing captures a familiar vision of the Middle East.
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Next comes an entertaining fashion show of hijabs accessorized by big hats and towering shoes, the models (both men and women under the veils, but who’s to know?) parading up and down the aisles of the antique theater. Then the cast dances with books. Shadow puppets — a little girl, an old man — comment on the action.
If you don’t mind the admixture of cuteness and terror, of philosophical musing and scenes ripped from the news, alongside beautiful movement and Shamou’s music, you may find “Oasis” an afternoon delight.