The Arts Center Announces Season Eight Lineup of Dance, Music, and Theater

Based around the theme ‘Stories,’ the upcoming program invites audiences to embark on dynamic and diverse artistic journeys

The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) has announced its eighth season’s lineup of performances, talks, and workshops centered around the theme ‘Stories’. The events will showcase local, regional, and global artists whose works build on inspiring storytelling, inviting audiences to participate in the process of creative expression on and off the stage. 


Since 2015, The Arts Center has offered a creative outlet for artistic expression and discovery to the UAE community, bringing the local and international artistic community together to interact creatively, melding tradition with innovation through powerful performances which inspire dialogue and new ways of seeing and understanding the world.

Executive Artistic Director at NYUAD Arts Center Bill Bragin

“The season’s theme, ‘Stories’," continues Bragin, "invites audiences and artists alike to travel on a rich artistic journey that may be new and unfamiliar, comforting, challenging or unexpected, but always dynamic and diverse. We thank our partner Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels along with the NYUAD leadership, for their support. Together, we hope this season will further cement The Arts Center’s reputation as a place for new inspiration.” 

The season will kick off on September 8 with a dynamic performance by Ethiopian-American singer-songwriter Meklit (who founded The Nile Project, and was part of The Arts Center’s inaugural season), showcasing her renowned transmedia project, Movement, exploring the complex relationship between migration and music through sound and song. Building on her public radio podcast of the same name, and featuring an arrangement of songs and stories poignantly relaying Meklit’s own experience as a child refugee in the United States, the show reflects intersecting elements that fall under the umbrella term ‘migration’.

The show incorporates interviews with musical performances by spotlighting three UAE-based artists; UAE-born Somali rapper Freek, from Abu Dhabi; Syrian singer Ghaliaa Chaker, from Al Ain; and Filipino musician Cromwell Ojeda (Muhaisnah Four), from Dubai. Each will individually relay the richness of their own life stories and heritages through music ranging across Arabic drill, RnB, pop, rock, and electronic genres, complementing Meklit’s personal mix of Ethiojazz and folk music.

Meklit, performs on stage holding a guitar, smiling, and reaching out toward the audience. Band members apear in the background.

For the first time, contemporary dance initiative, Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels will collaborate with The Arts Center to curate a robust dance series, allowing stories to unfold on the Abu Dhabi stage through the medium of movement and dance. Van Cleef & Arpels’ long-standing devotion to preserving choreographic heritage and nurturing state-of-the-art creations will be showcased through three shows (with more to be announced), each reflecting a commitment to the artistic expression of the body in diverse ways:

  • CanDoCo Dance Company, one of the world’s leading inclusive dance companies, reimagines Trisha Brown’s 1983 postmodern masterpiece Set and Reset in a performance titled Set and Reset/Reset. Moving to Laurie Anderson’s original score, dancers present the ever-changing nature of choreography and the body’s continual dialogue with the past as the troupe builds on Brown’s original techniques to channel new ways of incorporating natural bodily impulses and instincts into dance, while sparking important conversations about dance and disability. Like all visiting artists, CanDoCo Dance Company will also participate in a broad array of workshops, artist talks, university class visits and other activities, furthering The Arts Center’s and Van Cleef & Arpels’  mutual goals of further developing the dance ecosystem in the UAE. 
  • Compagnie Hervé Koubi’s What the Day Owes to the Night is an intensely physical and fluid performance by thirteen dancers inspired by the French choreographer’s reaction to the revelation that he and his family were of Algerian origins. The athletic choreography encompasses an array of dance genres that echo Koubi’s then newfound cross-cultural identity, and includes contemporary dance with references to Sufi whirling dervishes, capoeira, breaking, ballet, and gymnastics.
  • The Palestinian/American Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre showcases Last Ward, an evening length dance theater piece by choreographer Samar Haddad King and playwright and director Amir Nizar Zuabi.  In Last Ward, dancers push the boundaries of the physical and the emotional through movement by skillfully weaving the spoken word to an intensely expressive choreography that addresses illness and mortality with sensitivity and humor.

I would like to warmly thank The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi for its major role in the development and promotion of contemporary dance. It is through such prestigious partnerships that we are able to contribute to the development of choreographic art on an international scale and to share the culture of the Maison Van Cleef & Arpels with as many people as possible.

Van Cleef & Arpels' Director of Dance & Culture Programs Serge Laurent

Continuing its mission as a place of discovery, storytelling, and inspiration, The Arts Center will partner with a range of entities to simultaneously showcase eclectic global talent and support the local arts scene. 

CinemaNa, curated by the NYUAD Film and New Media Program, will showcase the films Daughters of Abdul-Rahman by Zaid Abu Hamdan and Huda’s Salon by Hany Abu-Assad, followed by discussions and live Q&As with the filmmakers and faculty.

The Music Program Recitals will feature a diverse repertoire of contemporary classical music recitals by faculty from NYU Abu Dhabi’s Music Program, providing a bridge between the NYUAD Music Program and the larger Abu Dhabi and UAE community. The season includes the biannual Manifold festival, and a solo piano recital featuring Ioannis Potamousis marking Rachmaninoff’s 150th birthday with a concert of his miniature and larger compositions side by side with composers that inspired him: Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Chopin.

The Arts Center will once again host the open mic platform Rooftop Rhythms that features a number of regional spoken-word artists, slam poets, and musicians, furthering its aim to support the local arts scene.

Further supporting the region’s artistic growth and celebrating UAE National Day, the eighth annual Hekayah | The Story will bring together diverse stories from across the region through powerful performances by poets, musicians, and storytellers of different cultural backgrounds. 

A highlight of The Arts Center’s theater offerings is a revival of Al Raheel | Departure, which first premiered in 2020, commissioned by The Arts Center with Abu Dhabi’s Cultural Foundation. This contemporary work of theater, created by Emirati writer and NYUAD alum Reem Almenhali and American director and NYUAD Professor of Theater Joanna Settle, fuses Arabic and English poetry, artistic projections, and expressive movement, in an intimate and evocative exploration of the lives of Emirati women, and features the originating cast of young Emirati women.

Two wmen seated onstage, as if "outside" with a blue, clouded sky background.

Furthering on The Arts Center’s goal to reexamine iconic artworks which have shaped their fields, Season Eight will welcome legendary American jazz saxophonist, composer, and bandleader Ravi Coltrane, whose acclaimed work echoes the dynamic rhythms of modern and classic jazz. Performing for the first time in the Gulf, the concert is entitled Cosmic Music: A Contemporary Exploration into the Music of John and Alice Coltrane, extending the spiritual jazz traditions of his pioneering parents.

Critically acclaimed American jazz/soul/pop guitarist and singer Raul Midón will also perform alongside Cuban-Canadian singer-songwriter and 2022 Grammy Winner (Best Latin Pop Album) Alex Cuba, with their musical vision incorporating a sensational rendition of culturally inherited sounds from across Latin America and North America. Abu Dhabi based Emirati singer-songwriter NotSoHuman, who has developed his rapidly growing career through early appearances at NYUAD at Rooftop Rhythms, will open the show.

Barzakh Festival will also return as a two-day musical summit featuring genre-shattering musical performances by Grammy winner for Best World Music Performance, Arooj Aftab (Pakistan), the all-women’s ensemble Lemma (Algeria), and singer and cultural activist Sahra Halgan (Somaliland), as well as an additional artist to be announced.

Performer Sahra Halgan standing, facing the camera, with band members standing in line behind her.

The season will wrap up with an exciting event for the whole family to enjoy, with a circus performance by Morocco’s Groupe Acrobatque de Tangers entitled FIQ! This otherworldly collection of acrobatic feats, figures, colors, music, sketches, headspins, and choreography features sets and costumes designed by the Moroccan contemporary artist Hassan Hajjaj. 

This season’s Off the Stage program will once again extend the engagement between performers and audience, with workshops and talks hosted by the artists covering diverse topics from skills development to cultural and historical discussions, as well as classroom engagement with NYUAD students.