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About Nejla 

Award –winning and internationally acclaimed choreographer and dancer, Nejla Yatkin has been dancing, choreographing and teaching internationally for over 30 years. A native of Berlin, Germany, she graduated with her professional degree in Dance and Choreography from "Die Etage" a Performing Arts College in Berlin, Germany. Nejla is currently based in Chicago dancing, choreographing, performing and giving workshops at international and national festivals. 


She brings a luminous and transcultural perspective to her work remaining 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 past 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 and continues today in selected cities. 


Since 2000, Ms Yatkin 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 to creating solo dances, 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, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Dallas Black Dance Theater and the Modern American Dance Company among many others. 


As an independent artist, she has been the recipient of 4 Artist Fellowship Awards for her Excellence Choreography from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and a 3-time recipient of 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 three Performing Americas Arts Residency tours from the National Performance Network. 


For her past creations Ms. Yatkin has received 5 Metro D.C. Dance Awards, including two times the “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. She has been awarded 3 Princess Grace Foundation Awards, including a 2008 Choreography Award, a 2009 Special Project grant as well a 2015 Princess Grace Works in Process Award to be in residence at the Baryshnikov Art Center. Since moving to Chicago in 2010 she was awarded the 2012 3Arts Award for dance and the Illinois Individual Project grant as well as an Individual Art Project Grant from the City of Chicago. For her latest choreographic commission for a new Musical entitled “The Boy Who Dance On Air” she was awarded “Best Choreography” in a new Musical from Stage Scene LA and for the New York production at Abingdon Theater she was nominated for “Outstanding Choreography” both for a Drama Desk Award and a Chita Rivera Award. In 2019 she is one of the recipients of the 2019 Chicago Dancemakers Lab Award and a 2020 3Arts residency Fellow to be in residence at the Camargo Foundation in Cassi, France.


Nejla is also passionate about sharing her knowledge and experience with the next generation. From 2008 to 2012 she was an Associate Professor of the Practice at the University of Notre Dame and from 2001 to 2008 she was a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Dance at the University of Maryland, College Park. Nowadays she is frequently a guest choreographer for many Universities including Harvard Dance Center, Northwestern University, Purchase Conservatory of Dance and Webster University among many others. In February of 2020 she is the recipient of the Choreographer Fellowship to be in residence at Kansas University.


In addition, in 2007 she started experimenting with Dance on film; her short Dance on Camera film “The Wall” was screened in Dance On Camera Festivals in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, Berlin, Bogota, Istanbul and Kyoto. Her current documentary, Dancing Around The World, received the Silver Palm Award for Outstanding Short Documentary category from The Mexico International Film Festival 2018 and was officially selected and screened at film festivals in Norway, Italy, Portugal and Chicago as well as screened in Cultural Centers in India, Madagascar, Kenya, Colombia, Japan and the Philippines. For more information please visit 

Through dance, I seek what Isaiah Berlin refers to as an awareness of the deep currents - a comprehension of the connection between all things, an awareness of the present as well as that which transcends time and space. The paths along this quest are numerous. To embrace all of these approaches is to embrace nothing less than our humanity, our common journey on this planet of existence. Within this essay, I briefly outline my orientation toward dance in general and my work in particular.
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