The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) has announced its ninth season. Under the theme Arts at the Center, an eclectic array of global and local talent is showcased through shows, talks, and workshops. The aim is to invite audiences to experience something new, unfamiliar, and exciting. A number of shows are also aligned with NYUAD’s sustainability efforts as part of the build up to COP28, while other performances reflect The Arts Center’s ongoing commitment to inclusivity.
Executive Artistic Director of The Arts Center Bill Bragin said: “Over the past nine years, The Arts Center has been committed to creating a platform for audiences to discover unfamiliar disciplines, artists, and works, with a promise of inspiration, stimulation, reflection, and fun. In the season that the UAE marks the Year of Sustainability, we wanted to contribute to discussions across the university, and throughout the nation, around climate change and the environment, in a unique, and hopefully, inspiring way that connects multiple issues, and puts the arts at the center of conversations about vital global issues."
Opening the season is N O W I S W H E N W E A R E (the stars) by Andrew Schneider. The immersive, multimedia theatrical installation uses thousands of reactive lights and hundreds of speakers to create an interactive theatrical cosmos in a unique experience. The show, which has two versions – a narrative version for only eight audience members at a time, and an installation version for up to 40 people - runs from Thursday-Sunday, August 31-September 3, and Tuesday-Sunday, September 5-10 at 2:30-5:30pm and 7-11pm.
Film as Performance
Many programs in The Arts Center’s history have blurred disciplines within the arts, and this season has a special focus on film as performance.
Koyaanisqatsi Live on Wednesday, October 5 at 7:30pm is a cine-concert, featuring the ground-breaking film by Godfrey Reggio set to the influential score by Philip Glass. The music is performed live by the Philip Glass Ensemble, in a hypnotic exploration of nature, urbanization, and a world out of balance.
Miwa Matreyek is known for her captivating interdisciplinary shadow performances and live shows. Composed of two special pieces, This World Made Itself and I Infinitely Yours will run on Thursday, November 16, at 7:30pm; Friday, November 17, at 7:30pm; and Saturday, November 18, at 2pm and 7:30pm. Using projected animations and shadow silhouettes, Matreyek combines surreal and poetic narratives to depict the conflict between humans and nature, and the rapid changes on Earth due to climate change and global warming. This residency is supported by a grant from the US Mission to the UAE.
Music, Heritage, Identity: Performances and Concerts
After touring throughout Europe and North Africa, the remarkable singers Betsayda Machado and Parranda el Clavo will make their long-awaited Middle East debut at The Red Theater on Thursday, September 7, at 7:30pm. Building on their participation in The Arts Center’s virtual online season in 2021 with the world premiere of their documentary Las Cantoras, they will showcase the sounds of Venezuelan afro-soul Tambor – a spirit-shaking percussion and voice celebration, comprised of polyphonic melodies and call-and-response chants layered on propulsive traditional drums. The UAE’s Liwa Maritime Ensemble opens with a performance of Emirati cultural heritage.
On Friday, September 22 at 7:30pm, the night after their cine-concert, the genre-busting East London collective Asian Dub Foundation will bring a full-on dance concert featuring their tough jungle rhythms, dub basslines, wild guitar, and forceful high-speed raps drawn from South Asian roots. Expect a wild ride from their Mercury Prize-nominated 1998 classic, Rafi’s Revenge through to their ninth studio album, Access Denied, released in 2020.
In a very different yet equally captivating performance, Brazilian chanteuse Bebel Gilberto presents a series of heartfelt and personal songs dedicated to her father, bossa nova originator João Gilberto in Songs My Father Loved, on Saturday, September 30 at 7:30pm at The Red Theater. Through her intimate acoustic style, Gilberto will showcase her skills as a composer, infusing her trademark Brazilian rhythms with contemporary approaches.
Small Island Big Song will take center stage on Wednesday, November 29, at 7:30pm. The Arab world premiere of Our Island features musical performances by islander songkeepers from the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, coming together to express their concerns about the changing state of the oceans. Featuring artists from Taiwan, Madagascar, Mauritius, Tokelau/Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Rapa Nui (Easter Island), the concert is accompanied by footage filmed across sixteen island nations throughout three years of artistic production. The show coincides with a student-run environmental summit as part of NYUAD chairing the Universities Climate Network (UCN), leading dialogues, workshops, public events, policy briefs, and youth participation in the lead-up to COP28.
Returning for the seventh edition, Barzakh Festival 2024 will present four bands across two nights, on Friday-Saturday, March 1-2, at 7:30pm at The Red Theater. The annual event will unveil an exciting array of global sounds, as boundary-pushing musicians come together to create a unique blend of cultures, styles, and genres.
The lineup includes:
- Emel Mathlouthi, a songwriter, guitarist, and singer whose early career drew comparisons to Joan Baez, Sister Marie Keyrouz and the Lebanese diva Fairouz, and more recently, to Bjork and Kate Bush
- Mazaher from Egypt; the musicians, Um Sameh, Um Hassan, and Nour El Sabah are among the last remaining practitioners of Zar in Egypt
- Additional artists to be announced
The Arts Center continues its partnership with Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels, which recognizes the singular role The Arts Center has played in growing the dance ecosystem in the country, while Van Cleef & Arpels have a century-long history of supporting the art form.
The Season 9 collaboration includes the world premiere of Mehek by Aakash Odedra and Aditi Mangaldas on Wednesday-Thursday, February 7-8 at 7:30pm, commissioned by The Arts Center. An exploration of the human heart, its desires, courage, and resilience, the contemporary dance show is co-produced by The Arts Center and brought to life by the artistry of Aakash Odedra and Aditi Mangaldas in a performance that challenges societal norms and redefines the essence of love.
Season seven of the contemporary film series CinemaNa is presented by the NYUAD Film and New Media Program. Running monthly at The Blue Hall and The Red Theater, each screening of ground-breaking films from the Arab world is followed by a live Q&A with the creatives behind the films.
Bragin added: “The Arts Center is grateful for its ongoing partnership with lead sponsor Mubadala, who also present our Off The Stage series of panels, discussions, and workshops, revealing their commitment to building the arts ecosystem, investing in talent and capacity development. We also thank the US Mission to the UAE, who support artist development and youth educational activities; and Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels, our partner in promoting contemporary dance in the UAE. And of course, we are grateful to NYU Abu Dhabi’s leadership for their ongoing commitment and support for our mission.”