A 2023 Guggenheim Fellow in choreography, Nejla Yatkin is a globally recognized artist known for her captivating stage performances and empathic connections through movement. Praised by The New York Times for her "magical" storytelling and   "fierce and supple" performance style, Nejla travels the globe inspiring and choreographing dances that evoke deep emotions and spark thought-provoking conversations. Throughout her long and complex career, she has explored the beauty and complexity of being human through her choreographic and theatrical interests, constantly pushing the boundaries of traditional dance forms to create innovative and meaningful experiences for her audiences.
Nejla is highly sought-after as a choreographer, performer, and educator, sharing her dance artistry that draws on extensive training in various styles including Dance Theater, Limon, Horton, Graham techniques, Ballet, Jazz Dance, Japanese Butoh, Middle Eastern Dance forms, pantomime, and acting techniques. Born in Germany, she received a Professional degree in Contemporary Dance from Die Etage, a performance art college in Berlin and was invited to the US in 1995 with an artist of extraordinary achievement and ability status. In the US, she has danced professionally with African-American repertory dance companies, including the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble (1995-1999) and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (1999-2000), where she has interpreted works by master choreographers such as Donald McKayle, Eleo Pomare, Katherine Dunham, Ron Brown and Dianne McIntyre, as well as other renowned choreographers such as Jose Limon, Anzu Furukawa, Mary Wigman, and Pina Bausch. She has also been a frequent guest performer with Shapiro&Smith Dance company, Danza Concierto and Burnt Sugar Danz in New York.

Nejla's body of work has earned her numerous grants and choreography awards, including 3 awards from the Princess Grace Foundation, the 3Arts Foundation, the Jay Pritzker Foundation, the Turkish Cultural Foundation, the National Performance Network, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Chicago Dancemakers Foundation among others. She has also been commissioned to create work for prestigious venues such as the John F. Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Center Out of Doors in New York and Dance Center Columbia College in Chicago. In addition to her professional work, Nejla is also dedicated to educating and mentoring young artists. She has taught at the university and professional levels, earning tenure as an Associate Professor of Dance at the University of Maryland, College Park (2001-2008) and as an Associate Professor of The Practice at the University of Notre Dame (2008-2012). She has also been a guest artist at institutions such as Bates Dance Festival, Harvard University, Northwestern University, SUNY Purchase, Webster University, and Washington University, among others.

Nejla's solo creations, including Wings of Desire, De/Reconstructing Mata Hari, Solo With Bach, What Dreams May Come, and The Other Witch, showcase her multifaceted personal and artistic lineages and have been presented around the globe, receiving numerous awards and accolades such as Dance Magazine's 25 To Watch and Washington Post's Top 10 Dances. Her newest solo project, A Dance Without A Name, is an interactive theatrical solo dance presented in the round that takes the audience on a journey of memory, place, and the cyclical and entrapping nature of time and culture. The solo had a preview performance in June 2022 and was awarded the 2022 DCASE Esteemed Artist Award, the 2022 Sybil Shearer Fellowship Award, the Links Hall Co-Commissioning Fellowship Award, and was a National Dance Project Finalist. The premier of A Dance Without A Name will take place in the spring of 2024.

Nejla's deep curiosity and inquiry into questions of freedom and equality have also led her to create large-scale group projects such as the 3-part Berlin Wall Project or Dancing Around The World Project which have been presented globally and have inspired audiences to think deeply about the themes presented in her work. In addition to her professional creations, Nejla also gives back to her community by mentoring young artists and volunteering her movement skills to the elderly through teaching gentle movement sessions at the Sisters of The Poor care facility and creating a virtual space for people to explore movement during the pandemic.

Throughout her career, Nejla has been referred to as a global artist who, like Milan Kundera or Italo Calvino, goes into a place and time, exposes, explores, inspires, and then transcends it by planting seeds of new ideas and approaches. Her dedication to the art of dance is evident in the thoughtfulness and artistic quality of her work, which continues to inspire and engage audiences around the world. Her love of dance as a crucial form of social contact and collective creativity is evident in her ongoing efforts to share her knowledge and passion with students and audiences, making her a highly respected and admired figure in the dance community.

In addition to her work as a choreographer and educator, Nejla is also involved in various commissions and projects, including creating a new work inspired by Ruth Page's Miss Expanding Universe for the Ruth Page Civic Ballet and a new Dance On Camera piece for the University of North Carolina in Charlotte entitled Thread. She is also working on the development of A Dance For A Time Being, an augmented dance experience celebrating the wisdom of the aging body, and a new commission for the Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

Through her captivating and thought-provoking performances, Nejla continues to inspire and connect with audiences around the world, leaving a lasting impact on the dance community through her innovative and meaningful work.