Nejla Yatkin Credit: Chicago Sun-Times

Leaving Chicago convinced German choreographer Nejla Yatkin that she needed to be making art for Chicago. While traveling the globe for a year-long project, Yatkin got a taste of how the rest of the world perceives her hometown—negatively—and returned on a mission to showcase the city’s beauty.

Jackson Park’s Garden of the Phoenix is the stage for Yatkin’s newest site-specific piece, choreographed for the newly formed South Chicago Dance Theatre.

“Many people that hear about the south side of Chicago immediately think of gang violence and police brutality, but this place represents the total opposite of the public view,”says Yatkin. “We need to celebrate and emphasize the positive and peaceful places of the south side.”

Working with South Chicago Dance Theatre allows Yatkin to highlight the creativity of the local community, and Garden of the Phoenix is an ideal location for a choreographer heavily influenced by the patterns, forms, and fractal structures in nature.

Dancing With the Garden of the Phoenix takes viewers all over the grounds, and this participatory, immersive element is an essential aspect of Yatkin’s work, which seeks to change the viewer’s relationship with his or her environment:

“I want to focus my creative energy in Chicago to make public places more enjoyable and peaceful through the presence of dance and movement,” she says. “Dancing in public spaces creates community and puts people at ease. The goal is to explore and make people become aware, both intimately and broadly, of the interaction of people, movement and the environment.”

Dancing With the Garden of the Phoenix Fri 9/15, 6 PM, Garden of the Phoenix at Jackson Park, 6401 S. Stony Island, 773-256-0903,, free.