Four years ago, I was invited by choreographer Nejla Y. Yatkin to follow her dance company NY2 Dance on tour in Central America. Our daughter Gracie was only 15 months old, and I was ready to say no – that I couldn’t take this on right now, but something told me there was something too special about this opportunity to pass up.So I packed my bags and left Gracie home with Christopher. I filmed hours and hours of performances, workshops, site-specific works and personal interviews during the tour, and the more I filmed, the more I realized that this story we were telling was bigger than we ever imagined. It wasn’t documenting performance or experience on tour – it was documenting Nejla’s personal story of strength and perseverance in her culture and career. We’ve held on to the footage for far too long, and it’s time to make this film. Where Women Don’t Dance is a truly inspiring story. It translates beyond the personal, beyond the dances performed on stage. In many ways, this documentary is a contribution to a more serious conversation about the ways women face restrictions in full expression near and far.In a time when politicians, business leaders, news outlets and more and more women are openly discussing how to deal with glass ceilings, achieve equal pay for equal work and find balance professionally, spiritually and personally at work and at home, we need to finish this film and add to the discourse. So we’re working on it!!
In our film, Nejla opens up about her personal passion for dance and the conflicts it has posed within her family and community. Born to Turkish parents in Berlin, Nejla and her family were expected to honor their roots and culture through their everyday actions. Encouraged by her parents, she studied Turkish folk dance at a very young age. Folk dance was a way for her to connect to her heritage. They didn’t realize it was also an entryway into the wider dance world – a realm where she learned to truly express herself. At the age of 14, Nejla started studying with two dance teachers from New York City. They changed her life as they introduced her to new ways of moving. (How many of us have had dance teachers that have changed our lives? I’m pretty sure we all relate to this part!!) But contemporary styles of dance would not be received well by her parents, and performance was out of the question. It is considered a sin in her culture for women to dance in public. So Nejla continued to study but was forced to hide this part of her training and her life from everyone she knew.
I invite you to watch our trailer and learn more about how we’re raising the money to make this film a reality. Please help us spread the word about this beautiful film. We can’t wait to share it with you!
Contributor Nel Shelby, Founder and Principal of Nel Shelby Productions, is deeply dedicated to the preservation and promotion of dance through documentation of live performances, fully edited marketing reels, live-stream capture, and documentaries and promotional films.
Her New York City-based video production company has grown to encompass a diverse list of dance clients, and she works with an ever-wider variety of dance artists each year in her role as the Festival Videographer at Jacob’s Pillow and as Resident Videographer at the Vail International Dance Festival. Her half-hour documentary on Vail’s festival, The Altitude of Dance, debuted on Rocky Mountain PBS in May 2013. She collaborated with Adam Barruch Dance to create a short film titled “Folie a Deux,” which was selected and screened at the Dance on Camera Festival in New York City.