Get artsy this weekend in Abu Dhabi


Get artsy this weekend in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi - Following last weekend's 27 hours continuous Nik Bartsch quartet concert, Badke is part of the Arts Centre's second season of free and opened to the public performing arts.


Silvia Radan

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Published: Thu 8 Sep 2016, 5:01 PM

Last updated: Thu 8 Sep 2016, 7:15 PM

The infectious moves of traditional Levantine Arab dabke, mixed with contemporary dance, hip hop, capoeira and even circus will be performed this weekend, September 8-9 at the Arts Centre of New York University - Abu Dhabi (NYUAD).
Following last weekend's 27 hours continuous Nik Bartsch quartet concert, Badke is part of the Arts Centre's second season of free and opened to the public performing arts.
Just like the rather un-heard of opening musical marathon, the entire season is characterized by unique shows and collaborations that challenge conventional entertainment.
"I don't programme to a specific theme, but there are certain threads that run through it. We have a few pieces that are about how a show is presented, so it's not all come, sit in a raw and look at the stage," Bill Bragin, executive artistic director of the Arts Centre, explained.
One such shows is Holoscene, where artists perform everyday activities in a human size aquarium, while the tank is flooded with 13 tons of water.
"It's a really striking piece that is about climate change and raising water levels - what happens to your life when sea levels rise, and in a place like Abu Dhabi that's a really important issue," Bragin told Khaleej Times.
"You can experience it like a live art installation or like a theatre piece, and it will take place over four nights, about five hours per night. You can watch it for 15 minutes or you can watch it for five hours."
One of the world's most popular and oldest festivals, WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance), taking place annually in several locations around the world, was brought here as well some five years ago, with truly great world music bands performing on Abu Dhabi Corniche and Al Jahli Fort in Al Ain.
The festival was scrapped after two years, but it turned out to be what the people of Abu Dhabi are missing most in terms of "lost" entertainment. For this reason, Bragin decided to bring back the spirit of WOMAD with a mini world music festival this season.
"A lot of people really miss WOMAD! We had such great response to our world music shows last year, so there is more world music throughout this season" he stressed.
"We've got Driss El Maloumi, a great oudist from Morocco, collaborating with Debashish Battacharya, who is an Indian slide guitarist, we have a two-day, four-artist weekend, a kind of mini festival; we are also bringing next generation artists like Zahed Sultan from Kuwait, who will be in a double bill with DJ Dolores from Brazil, who was part of the closing Olympic ceremony show in Rio".
Another unexpected surprise in the programme is disco music, and not just any disco, but Filipino tunes!
Disco Manila is an all-star band of veterans from the late 70s, early 80s, when there was a big disco craze in the Philippines, like everywhere else in the world.
The band will have a concert on a Thursday night, and on the following night they will be live karaoke, so the band will be playing, but the audience will be singing.
"Because of such a huge Filipino community here in the UAE, we wanted to do something that would celebrate the music they love," pointed out Bragin.
"The other big thing is in the second half of the year, when the Red Theatre is going to open," he added.
So far, most performances take place in the Arts Centre's Black Box, a hall of about 200 seats, and sometimes in the NYUAD's outdoors plazas. The new theatre will have a capacity of 700 seats, and a bigger stage, allowing for large-scale performances.
In the programme this season are a modern language version of Homer's epic poem Iliad and a flamenco music and dance version of Sophocles' classic play Antigona.
"Then we've got Vijay Iyer, who is a three times Downbeat jazz artist of the year, and who composed a piece that is a response to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring called Radhe Radhe (Rites of Holi), which accompanies a film for the Indian Festival of Colours," said Bragin.
"We also commissioned Mohammed Feyrouz, the Emirati American composer, one of the most celebrated composers of his generation, to write a piece for the Bang On A Can all-stars that is going to be in the concert that opens the Red Theatre."
"Mohammed, who grew up in between the UAE and the US, has written four symphonies, but he has never premiered one of his adult works here in the UAE, and now he is doing so with a piece written for one of the most important contemporary music ensembles," went on Bragin.
A puppet theatre, storytelling, a science film festival and a contemporary dance performed not just on stage, but in the plazas and the rooftops of NYUAD, challenging the constrictions of a conventional stage, are also part of this second season of performing arts here, which is becoming rapidly popular with people from all over the country.
"When we opened last year we found that two thirds of the audience came from NYUAD's students, faculty and staff. By the end of last year, 70 percent of our audiences were from outside the university, people from all over Abu Dhabi emirate, but also people coming from Dubai and Sharjah," pointed out Bragin.
Full programme of the Arts Centre is available on

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