NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center Announces Ambitious Inaugural Season of Performing Arts

Diverse lineup of artists from across the globe to appear at NYUAD in free, public events

Press Release

New York University Abu Dhabi’s Arts Center announces its fall 2015 and spring 2016 lineup, an impressive collection of music, theater, dance, poetry, film, and family programs. Curated to form a collective tapestry of artistically adventurous experiences, each free and public event — from dance with a scientific twist and songs from post-Independence West Africa, to a Korean laptop ensemble and Arabic jazz — will be held at the University’s Saadiyat Island campus.

Leading the creation of the public arts community at NYU Abu Dhabi, NYUAD Arts Center Executive Artistic Director, Bill Bragin, said: “Abu Dhabi is an incredible nexus of north and south, east and west, a really cosmopolitan city that is investing in arts and culture as part of its identity. At NYU Abu Dhabi, we are looking to be a part of this dynamic and transformative effort, by building an arts destination and a cultural sector for Abu Dhabi and the region, by shaping and redefining the arts and by making them accessible. We are thrilled that our first full season will include some of the world’s most influential master artists, alongside innovative artists from younger generations, nearly all of whom will be performing in the UAE for the very first time.”

Bragin says the robust 2015-16 program was developed to foster relationships between performing artists and the city by encouraging active involvement between artist and audiences. In addition to their public performances, visiting artists will engage in other activities designed to engage with the local community and build local capacity, such as guest teaching at NYUAD, leading master classes and workshops, and giving artist talks.

Highlights of the program include: American folk and blues musician, Toshi Reagon, presenting the concert version of a work-in-progress opera; the world’s most influential contemporary string quartet, Kronos Quartet, in their first concerts in the Gulf; Australia’s leading creator of experiential, interactive theater for families — Polyglot Theatre; South Indian Bharatanatyam dance company Ragamala Dance; the reunited Malian band, Les Ambassadeurs, featuring Salif Keita and Amadou Bagayoko (of Amadou & Mariam); a multiple-artist poetic celebration of heritage, drawing from the diverse communities of the UAE for this year’s National Day; Romania’s pre-eminent brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia; architects of funk music Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley, premiering a multi-media transnational history of the style; groundbreaking new music vocalist and multimedia artist Meredith Monk, celebrating her 50th anniversary; and Amir ElSaffar’s 17-member big band blending Iraqi maqam with jazz, among many other new and exciting acts from around the world.

The NYUAD Arts Center aspires to be an internationally renowned performing arts center that presents student, faculty, and community productions alongside distinguished professional artists from around the world.

Additional programs will be added, and all artists and dates are subject to change. Reservations for free tickets will be opened approximately one month prior to most events.

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Toshi Reagon: Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower: The Concert Version (UAE Debut)
2 – 3 September 2015

Adapted from the post-apocalyptic novel by Octavia Butler, the extraordinary singer-songwriter-guitarist,Toshi Reagon’s new opera, a work-in-progress, blends science fiction with African-American spiritualism and deep insights on gender and race to construct a mesmerizing meditation on the future of human civilization. Written in collaboration with her mother, the iconic singer, composer and civil rights leader Bernice Johnson Reagon, Parable of the Sower is a work of rare power and beauty: at once philosophically profound and wild entertainment.

Kronos Quartet (UAE Debut)
16 – 17 September 2015

The most adventurous and accomplished small ensemble in the Western world, Kronos Quartet has redefined the realm of possibility for the string quartet. Its omnivorous approach to repertoire embraces 20th century masters and contemporary composers, jazz legends and rock gods, world musicians and maverick experimentalists of every stripe. Now working into its fifth decade, Kronos is building on its celebrated legacy of innovation and mentorship, continuing to chart a bold musical path and inspire generations of fellow musicians. The ensemble will present two unique programs to be performed in its Gulf debut, including the world premiere of the first new work written as part of its ambitious Fifty For the Future initiative.


Polyglot Theatre: We Built This City (UAE Debut)
8 – 11 & 15 – 17 October 2015

Polyglot Theatre, Australia’s leading creator of experiential, interactive theater for families presents a joyously hands-on celebration of the unlimited reach of young imaginations. We Built This City is a giant cardboard construction site where children (with help from artists from the company) will create a magnificent imagined metropolis — a playful vision rising from the thousands of boxes on hand that reflects their own unique place and time. With a DJ providing the soundtrack and a building-stomping finale, kids of all ages are in for a memorable day.

Ragamala Dance: They Rose At Dawn (UAE Debut)
14 October 2015

The South Indian dancer and choreographer Aparna Ramaswamy’s newest solo work for Ragamala Dance explores the divine benevolence and strength of women as the guardians of ritual. As a lone dancer on stage accompanied only by a stellar Carnatic musical ensemble, Ramaswamy, whose work has been described as “thrillingly three-dimensional” by The New York Times, creates a beautiful and powerful meditation on the feminine through the dynamic interplay between movement and music.

The Nile Project (UAE Debut)
29 October 2015

The great Nile River connects 11 countries and more than 400 million people, from its sources beyond Lake Victoria to its Egyptian delta. This singular collaborative project brings together musicians from all along its route, reuniting instruments and modes of song that parted ways millennia before with astonishing results: buzzing timbres, ingenious polyrhythms, vocals in more than 10 languages — music that is at once ancient and entirely new. In The Nile Project, love songs have crossed geographic and linguistic barriers to forge new, close friendships.


Tacit Group (UAE Debut)
11 – 12 November 2015

The Korean electronic music and multimedia ensemble Tacit Group devises improvised algorithmic visual and sound art that is mad, experimental fun for audiences, who both participate in and are enveloped by the action on stage. They focus as much on process as result, combining sources like mathematical code, video game systems, and real-time personal computer interactions live on stage to create playful high tech mashups of music and video that are mind-blowing: sensory fireworks displays where sounds and visuals co-mingle and blur together. The program will include the world premiere of a work commissioned by NYUAD The Arts Center: an Arabic alphabet version visualizing Terry Riley’s pioneering minimalist work “In C”.

Les Ambassadeurs featuring Salif Keita, Cheick Tidiane Seck and Amadou Bagayoko (of Amadou & Mariam) (UAE Debut)
18 November 2015

From 1970 to 1985, the iconic Malian band Les Ambassadeurs wrote and rewrote the rulebook for the Manding pop sound that drove the world music boom of the 1980s and 1990s. Original members Salif Keita, Cheick Tidiane Seck and Amadou Bagayoko (of Amadou & Mariam) reunite here to revisit their catalogue--a collection of songs forged from the dreams and tensions of post-Independence West Africa: socialism, pan-Africanism, black pride, authenticité, salsa, jazz, soul, rock ’n’ roll and the ancient art of the griots.

Rudresh Mahanthappa & Gamak (UAE Debut)
24 November 2015

Forming this quartet--its name taken from the South Indian term for melodic ornamentation “gamaka”-- with longtime musical partners Rez Abbasi, Rich Brown, and, Dan Weiss, the dazzlingly inventive composer and alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa delves deep into his hybridization of progressive jazz and South Indian classical. Mahanthappa’s fearless explorations conjure a polyphonic landscape that manages to incorporate Western forms of jazz, progressive rock, heavy metal, country, American folk, go-go, and ambient while simultaneously engaging the rich traditions of Indian, Chinese, African, and Indonesian music.

حِكايه | Hekayah - The Story (In Celebration of UAE National Day)
29 November 2015

From Nabati poetry to spoken word to hip-hop, a multiple-artist celebration of heritage in poetry, prose and song, drawing from the diverse communities of the UAE. An exciting lineup of performers will honor National Day through words and music, selected through a collaborative curatorial process.


Aakash Odedra Company: Murmur 2.0 (UAE Debut)
10-11 February 2016

Inspired by South Asian classical dance, contemporary dance, and collaborative partnerships, the UK-based dancer Aakash Odedra has become one of the most sought after choreographers in Europe. In Murmur 2.0, co-commissioned by NYUAD The Arts Center, he uses his own childhood struggles with learning disabilities as a springboard into a deep and meaningful investigation of warped and exaggerated realities. This collaboration between Odedra, Australian choreographer Lewis Major, and Ars Electronica Futurelab of Linz, Austria, explores how misconceptions about dyslexia can be revealed through visual design, light, sound, and movement. Odedra presented an excerpt of the work as a TED Talk at TEDGlobal in Rio De Janeiro in 2014.

Imagine Science Abu Dhabi Film Festival: Air
18-20 February 2016

With films ranging from traditional and narrative to experimental, Imagine Science Abu Dhabi: Air will highlight the many creative ways that science can be investigated, explained, and understood. Last year’s inaugural ISADFF investigated the water that makes life possible. The second installment will focus on the equally essential substance of air, in all its forms and meanings: respiration, aeronautics, the elemental composition of the atmosphere, weather, climate, sublimation, gas properties, the mechanics of sound, and all of the mundane and esoteric ways in which air touches everything in and beyond our world. The festival will also offer filmmakers the opportunity to not only discuss their works, but engage in dialogue with fellow scientists and artists, via Q&A sessions and panel discussions.

Imagine Science Abu Dhabi Film Festival: Atmospheres (Visual Art/Science Exhibition)
18-23 February 2016

The companion exhibition to the Imagine Science Film Festival will feature not only art that engages with scientific themes, but also aesthetically striking scientific data and imaging, through installation, sculpture, painting, photography, gallery talks, and more.

Fanfare Ciocarlia (UAE Debut)
28 February 2016

Emerging two decades ago from an isolated village in rural Romania, Fanfare Ciocarlia, the unstoppable Kings of Balkan Brass, have become a global phenomenon, revolutionizing brass music and influencing artists in genres from world to classical to rock to jazz. Making a special stop in Abu Dhabi on the 20th anniversary world tour they’re calling Onward to Mars!, the band’s huge sound will shake the walls of NYU Abu Dhabi and bring the crowd to its feet!


Huang Yi & KUKA (UAE Debut)
30-31 March 2016

The acclaimed Taiwanese choreographer, dancer, and inventor Huang Yi channels his own fascination with robotics into a groundbreaking artistic examination of the relationship between humans and technology. As a child, he longed for a robot friend. As an adult, he created a robot to dance with, becoming a two-time winner of Taipei Digital Art Performance Award along the way. Huang and his robot companion KUKA bring razor sharp precision and stunning artistry to a spellbinding work unlike anything you have ever seen before.


Pee Wee Ellis & Fred Wesley, Musical Directors: FUNK: Evolution of a Revolution
(World Premiere)
16 April 2016

Masterminded by Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley, two of the great creative powerhouses of funk, this explosive multi-media performance tells the story of how funk has impacted music and culture in its 50 years of life. Ellis and Wesley are cornerstones of the genre — Pee Wee as one its creators with James Brown himself in 1965, and Fred carrying the torch on through the era of Bootsy Collins and George Clinton — and represent some of the deepest roots of the funk family tree. FUNK: Evolution of a Revolution brings together a world-class group of musicians to chart the path of the music from its birth in 1965 to the present and into the future, from jazz to hip hop, New York to New Orleans, London to Lagos, Benin to Brazil and beyond.

Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble: 50th Anniversary Concert (UAE Debut)
24-25 April 2016

Meredith Monk’s visionary fusion of sound and movement is as daring now as it was when she debuted in 1964. Her influence on musicians both in and beyond the world of classical composition can be felt in the work of artists as varied as pop icon Björk, jazz experimentalist John Zorn, and innovative electronic composer DJ Spooky. This historic concert will include selections from several of Monk’s most recent works — On Behalf of Nature, impermanence, and mercy — alongside classics from earlier decades, offering an expansive view of Monk’s 50 years of making music.

Amir ElSaffar’s Rivers of Sound Large Ensemble (UAE Debut)
30 April 2016

Featuring 17 musicians who work in a broad spectrum of traditions ranging from Iraqi maqam to American jazz, the trumpeter, santur player, vocalist, and composer Amir ElSaffar’s Rivers of Sound Large Ensemble creates a unique microtonal musical environment that moves beyond the notions of style and tradition into a realm of uninhibited musical communication. This concert will feature the UAE premiere of Not Two, a new work that had its world premiere in April 2015 at New York’s Lincoln Center.


Alwan Ensemble / Shawq Ensemble (UAE Debuts)
3 May 2016

Amir ElSaffar showcases two powerfully diverse projects. The Alwan Ensemble delivers a lively and transporting performance of well-loved folk, popular, and art music of the Arab world. In Ashwāq, ecstatic works by revered Sufi poet Ibn Al Arabi are set for voice, santur and string quartet, simultaneously evoking the Arab takht and Western contemporary chamber music.

Additional programs will be added, and all artists and dates are subject to change.

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.