nytheatre.com review by Saviana Stanescu
August 12, 2011
Songs from Pink Floyd’s rock opera The Wall and a few voiceovers with confessions of people who lived the experience of a Berlin divided into East and West by the Cold War’s wall create the soundscape of this gripping dance-theatre piece conceived and choreographed by Nejla Y. Yatkin.
The “mozaik” style of this striking dancer/choreographer is truly suitable to breaking down walls and barriers between cultures and conventions. As Yatkin confesses in her ars poetica or mission statement: “I also draw from what is around me. Being of Turkish-Egyptian descent in Germany and then being a Turkish-Egyptian-German-American in the U.S., I have repeatedly been surrounded with and fascinated by diverse cultures. Behind the wall (in Berlin) and encircled by communism, these cultures merged together and forged an alliance of sorts, but now without walls (in the U.S.) the world has seemingly opened up and dance traditions/techniques are available from all over the world.”
In Wallstories, she tackles difficult topics of memory, history and guilt “embroidered” on the East and West sides of the Iron Curtain, mixing drama and humor, in what definitely is a unique artistic voice, solidly built on intriguing concepts and a powerful performative presence. She makes only a short appearance as a performer, mirroring the movement of a dancer on stage, after she rises from a seat in the audience, while a voiceover of her own memory of the Wall is heard. The rest of the mozaik is built of various expressive dramatic “tiles” conveying the history of the Berlin Wall, the robot-like citizens of Soviet-influenced East Germany, the tragic personal attempts to climb the concrete and arrive on the other side (a beautiful dance of a woman moving against the wall, without touching the ground thanks to the hands of her supportive fellow-dancers), and ultimately the liberation and joy after the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989.
The newly found freedom was embodied by—among other things—Pink Floyd’s live concert in Berlin, remembered by Yatkin, who was a hopeful teenager at that time. For instance, Pink Floyd's "Is There Anybody Out There?" accompanies this scene with the girl looking desperately to find a crack, a window, a door in the wall, creating a clear dramatic core/story for her dance.
A group of multicultural dancers who hail from places as different as Iraq, Turkey, Germany, California and New York engage wholeheartedly in strong and intense performances, creating many memorable “bricks” in the performative wall.
The show begins with a kiss between two men who can’t part their lips as they move and dance, followed by a comic touch through the music of Larsen and Sherman ("Just keep that wall / Steady and tall / And the Reds in East Berlin") that accompanies the other dancers in a propaganda-like waltz, which grows militaristic and bureaucratic, suggesting the cold war/wall in people’s souls.
Wallstories has 11 sections, including Honecker and Brezhnev’s Secret; Helpless on the Wall; Christian’s Reflections; The Government; Mother Russia; My Mother, Your Mother; The Role of My Father; No More War, No More Walls; Grandmother’s Gaze; The Wall & I; and For the People of Berlin. Despite the technical problems that unfortunately affected the performative fluidity at their first FringeNYC presentation, the show proved compelling and thought-provoking.
Video projections, slides, sounds and dance movement (re)capture pieces of history and reality, making for a powerful performance that challenges the audience members to reflect on the relationship/clash between collective history and people’s individual lives.