September to Remember

Bill Bragin, Executive Artistic Director, The Arts Center, NYU Abu Dhabi, photographed in the Art Center at the Saadiyat Island campus.

"Trust us ... with styles and artists which may be new to you"

As the executive director of The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, I recognize that it’s unlikely that most members of our community will be familiar with more than a fraction of the artists in the 2016-17 line-up. It’s a big season, and all of the shows are my favorites. But I thought it might be helpful to share some insights as to why these artists and programs ended up in the schedule, starting with a September to remember.

September 1-2

Nik Bartsch’s Mobile: The Abu Dhabi Resonance Square Ritual

I’ve been a fan of Nik Bartsch’s music for many years. His music, a mix of jazz, subtle funk, and classical minimalism, found its way into my CD player and stayed there for literally several months of nearly nightly listening. So when I found out that he was now creating concerts of extended duration (upwards of 36 hours!), I couldn’t resist, though we settled on a shorter 27-hour performance that would reflect the rhythms of the region.

And after such a successful opening season, I knew season two needed to begin with something audacious, and something that Abu Dhabi hadn’t experienced before. No, you don’t have to stay the whole time. Yes, you can leave and come back the next day. You can also listen along at home on our YouTube live stream or watch NYUAD Live Channel 001 on campus.

September 8-9


The dancers of Badke make their UAE premiere on September 8 at NYUAD.

Two of our goals for this season are to bring more Arabic work, and continue to introduce contemporary dance in a place where it’s been fairly rare.

Bill Bragin, executive director, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi

Two of our goals for this season are to bring more Arabic work, and continue to introduce contemporary dance in a place where it’s been fairly rare. Badke, a Palestinian-Belgian collaboration that mixes dabke, the popular social dance, with contemporary dance, hip-hop, capoeira, and circus, speaks to the way that NYUAD brings Arabic culture into dialogue with so many other cultural traditions. The piece is almost relentlessly high energy, with joyous pure dance sections, along with evocations of life under occupation. Each of the dancers brings their individual personality to the powerful ensemble piece. And for those inspired to move, we’ll follow the Thursday night performance with a participatory dabke dance party to a soundtrack selected by members of the Badke company themselves.

September 21-22

Zahed Sultan / DJ Dolores

So much of the conversation about culture in the UAE has to do with reconciling ideas of heritage and modernity. The two electronic artists sharing this bill each explore these ideas in their own way, as we transform the Black Box into a dance club.

Zahed Sultan, from Kuwait, is a producer and musician, a curator of digital art festivals, and a social entrepreneur. His project Resonance (the second time that word appears in a show title this season) will bring together an international band of musicians and a hip-hop contortionist dancer, in an immersive multi-media presentation that draws from his connections to the visual arts world.

DJ Dolores is one of the stars of the manguebeat scene of Northeast Brazil, an artistic movement which has deeply affected my own interest in how hyperlocal and global influences can co-exist without diluting each other. In his first UAE performance, following a performance at the closing ceremonies of the summer Olympics in Rio, DJ Dolores reunites his first band Orchestra Santa Massa, which draws heavily from regional folk music as well as experimental breakbeats and dub, and adds frevo (the soundtrack of Carnival in their region) sax virtuoso Maestre Spok.

September 22

Art Gallery Grand Opening! Invisible Threads: Technology and its Discontents

The information age has given us modes and means of communication unrivaled in history, ranging from smartphones and social media to electronic financial and other transactions. Yet these same tools also generate anxiety about a user’s exposure via these modes, whether to risk of hackers or from technology’s effect on our environment.

This exhibition explores the tensions that emerge in our everyday relationships with technology, looking at such issues as isolation vs. connectedness, and privacy vs. social media.