The Arts Center Announces a Bold Fourth Season

An exhilarating nine-month calendar awaits

Press Release

Firmly established as a leading performing arts institution thanks to the success of its first three seasons, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi is excited to announce its fourth season, as diverse performances and Off The Stage events are set to take place from September 2018 to May 2019.

Over the past three seasons, The Arts Center has welcomed over 55,000 attendees to its 250 shows and over 500 Off The Stage outreach and engagement events, with over 80 performances and 160 Off The Stage events set for the upcoming season. This year, the shows are curated under the themes of Connection, Community, and Excellence. The program explores the connection of cultures, genres, and styles, spotlighting artists who excel in their fields and creating platforms for new artists to emerge and showcase their voices.  The performances catalyze conversations and stimulate personal connections that create a broader sense of community and foster creativity.

The season opens on September 5-6 in The Red Theater with the Middle East premiere of Dance by Lucinda Childs Dance Company, which made its UAE debut in 2017 to help mark the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. With choreography by Lucinda Childs, music by Philip Glass, and film by Sol LeWitt, Dance is a followup to Childs' and Glass' groundbreaking work together on the landmark opera Einstein on the Beach. It is a thrilling multimedia collaboration by three pioneers who emerged out of one of the most vibrant and prolific periods in New York’s art world. Eleven dancers seamlessly interact with the original 1979 film of the performance – the only film ever created by pioneering conceptual and minimalist visual artist Sol LeWitt – projected in counterpoint to music composed by Philip Glass, who is widely regarded one of the most influential musicians of the late 20th century.

Virtuosos Juan Carmona and Ptit Moh from Chaabi Flamenco.

A musical encounter between two masters arrives in Abu Dhabi on October 19. Chaabi Flamenco brings together flamenco guitar and Algerian madola, forming a new Arab-Andalusian bridge thanks to virtuosos Juan Carmona and Ptit Moh. Get a taste of their music here.

The Arts Center is a warm and welcoming destination for the entire family, and Tangle by Polyglot Theatre – an interactive playground for kids – offers another way for The Arts Center to connect with the community.  Polyglot charmed families in The Arts Center's opening in 2015 with thousands of boxes turned into building blocks in We Built This City. Their engaging return piece, Tangle invites children into a vibrant world where they weave colorful balls of ribbon between poles to create a participatory environment for free play, accompanied by live music. With each day, scheduled to coincide with Abu Dhabi Art, the piece becomes more and more elaborate as the dense structure becomes an artwork in itself.

Polyglot Theatre brings an interactive playground for kids in Tangle.

As in previous years, the fourth season will highlight world premieres, making Abu Dhabi a significant player in the creation of new works. The Black Box will welcome Jinn by Carlos Guedes, electroacoustic composer and NYUAD Associate Arts Professor of Music. Guedes draws inspiration from the images of Jinn in Arab culture to explore the embodiment of motion in music, in a collaboration with dancer Nella Turkki, flutist Cristina Ioan, and video artist Kirk Woolford.

The Arts Center will premiere commissioned work throughout the season. Another such piece is Arturo O’Farrill’s Cuban / Khaleeji project, in which the four-time Grammy Award winning pianist and composer explores links between music of the Arab world. The world premiere, on February 20, will see his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO) collaborate with an Emirati oudist soon to be announced, Kuwaiti pearl diving music drummers from Ghazi al-Mulaifi’s Folkloric Percussion Ensemble, British-Bahraini trumpeter Yazz Ahmed, and French Moroccan jazz vocalist Malika Zarra. As a prelude to this premiere, Arturo O'Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra will also bring The East Plaza to life on February 14 with a Valentine's Day dance concert featuring the classic big band Mambo of New York's Palladium era.

In keeping with its mission of being a laboratory for the arts, The Arts Center will also support artists in residency to develop new works. Emirati poet Afra Atiq will work with director and NYUAD Associate Arts Professor of Theater Joanna Settle to explore the creation of theatrical work. Choreographer Trajal Harrell will return to Abu Dhabi to work on a major new projectwhich will also be the subject of a  January Term class on dance and dramaturgy, How Movement Makes Meaning, taught by Assistant Professor of Theater Debra Levine.

The Arts Center’s boldest theater event of the year is the 8-hour masterpiece Gatz. Photo Credit Paula Court.

The Arts Center’s boldest theater event of the year is the 8-hour masterpiece Gatz – the critically lauded adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which The New York Times called “The most remarkable achievement in theater not only of this year but also of this decade.” Spread across four acts with a dinner break, this piece presents the "great American novel" in a gripping and transformational marathon performance sure to appeal to binge-watchers of compelling narrative. Created by multi-award winning ensemble Elevator Repair Service (ERS) in their first Middle East performance, directed by John Collins, the founder and artistic director of ERS. Speaking about his expectations for the engagement following a recent planning visit to Abu Dhabi, Collins said: “I was most struck by the incredibly rich diversity of the campus and the city. It seemed that there was a vibrant community being generated and regenerated with events in The Arts Center. Bringing international theater to this audience means getting an opportunity to participate in that community and the energy of its constant regeneration.”

In celebration of The Year of Zayed, The Arts Center will collaborate with the Cranleigh School and the Ministry of Tolerance to present the premiere of Water in the Desert: A Zayed Legacy, an opera devised by students at Cranleigh in collaboration with director Karen Gillingham and composer Hannah Conway.

Autobiography by Company Wayne McGregor. Photo credit Andrej Uspenski.

Other artists making their UAE debuts this season include First Nations multimedia electronic music powerhouses from Canada A Tribe Called Red, sharing a bill with Beirut's Love & Revenge; as well as Korean martial arts and street dance influenced Bereishit Dance Company; British contemporary dance sensation Company Wayne McGregor performing autobiography, which bases its choreography on McGregor’s genomic sequence, performed to electronic music performed live by Jlin; Nigerian Afrobeat royalty Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 sharing a bill with the Sudanese-American retro pop powerhouse AlSarah & the Nubatones; and the Tony Award-nominated choreographer Camille A. Brown & Dancers.

Returning favorite events include the multiple artist celebration of UAE National Day, Hekayah | The StoryImagine Science Film Festival, the CinemaNA Arabic cinema series, and the 7th season of the monthly open mic Rooftop Rhythms, as well as collaborations with NYU Abu Dhabi's theater program -  including the fall mainstage student theater production directed by Emily Mendelsohn, a Brooklyn-based object theater director whose work interrogates memory and identity; NYUAD’s music program, including the 4-night Manifold Festival of Musical Diversity in the spring alongside ongoing individual recitals and the Arts & Humanities programs. 

In addition to the performances themselves, The Arts Center is committed to the values of education and community building, helping to expand the knowledge and capacity of the UAE's cultural sector through a variety of dinner salons, talks, workshops, classes, and discussions by visiting artists under the umbrella of ‘Off The Stage’. And with almost 500 Off The Stage events to date, Season 4 plans to add another 160 to that total, most of which are open to the public.

Harshini Karunaratne, a recent NYU Abu Dhabi graduate and intern at The Arts Center, reflected on her experience, saying: “I owe so much of my growth to The Arts Center, because of the kinds of work and artists they’ve brought here. Even for my Capstone (senior project), [performances at The Arts Center] were sources of inspiration and reference points when communicating with my collaborators.”


The Arts Center constantly demonstrates the power of bringing diverse people together through shared artistic experiences. Whether a celebratory concert or a groundbreaking theater piece, a kinetic dance performance or a heart-tugging film, The Arts Center creates shared memories for the people of the UAE, opens important conversations, and showcases some of the best the world has to offer.

Executive Artistic Director at The Arts Center Bill Bragin

NYUAD Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Development and Director of the Core Curriculum Bryan Waterman, said: “The Arts Center is the lifeblood – the circulatory system – of our educational mission. It reaches into our entire curriculum, from interactive media and engineering to cultural exploration in dance, drama, and music, to investigations of social justice. In public performance and in workshops with students and community members, the Center's artists not only model what careers in the arts might look like, they also demonstrate art's power to transform lives, to educate, to provoke questions about the complex world we share.

The Arts Center at NYUAD is a renowned performing arts center that presents distinguished professional artists from around the world alongside student, faculty, and community productions.

For the full list of shows for the 2018-19 season, please find attached to this email. For more information please visit:

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.

About The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi

Presenting music, theater, dance, film and interdisciplinary performances that defy definition, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi is an internationally renowned performing arts center that presents distinguished professional artists from around the world alongside student, faculty, and community productions. The Arts Center draws on the resources of NYUAD to create a dynamic space for research, investigation, and the active pursuit of knowledge and wisdom for audiences as well as visiting artists.