Rain of Light: dance traditions battle it out in Louvre Abu Dhabi's first performance festival

Breakdancers, the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, and a Pharaonic-era stick dance will be on show

Breakdancers vs. ballerinas will compete at Louvre Abu Dhabi this week. 
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A ballet dancer leaps high, almost hovering in the air. That’s pretty good. A breakdancer spins on his head. It's impressive. Move over, ballerina? Or is it nothing compared to the athletic feats of contemporary dance?

Mash-ups might be a sacrilegious way to think about the eminent universal museum of Louvre Abu Dhabi, but that’s kind of what they’re doing: Ottoman ceramics vs. Tang dynasty ewer? Pakistani Bodhisattva vs. Indian Buddha? Alien vs. Predator (what, you missed that one)?

Louvre Abu Dhabi will host its first annual performance festival, titled Rain of Light, across its galleries and outside spaces starting on December 11. Not content to let different dance traditions receive the conventional treatment, Rain of Light is setting them some of them side-by-side, testing how they contrast and what they share, and focusing elsewhere on fusions and inspirations.

On December 13, Battle of Styles will see ballet compete against breakdance and contemporary dance, in an event MCed by the Emirati stand-up comedian Abdullah Al Qassab.

On December 11 and 12, the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, one of Unesco's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, will perform an homage to Auguste Rodin, the sculptor behind the famous Thinker. Other dancers and singers come from Morocco, France and the UAE, all exploring the idea of exchange – the leitmotif for the museum's second year of exhibitions, and one embedded in the museum's DNA.

“The Rain of Light festival aims to extend the cross-cultural dialogue that Louvre Abu Dhabi promotes within its galleries, by bringing this dialogue to life through a series of performances taking over various spaces under the dome,” said Manuel Rabaté, Louvre Abu Dhabi director, in a statement. “As a museum, we do not only celebrate ancient cultures, but also contemporary creativity from around the world and across art forms.”

Of historical interest will be the performance of an ancient Egyptian stick dance, which dates from the time of the Pharaohs. Known as tahtib, it is part dance-form, part-stylised battle, and has been passed on from generation to generation for millennia. It is here performed by the tahtib experts of the Medhat Fawzy Centre, based in the Upper Egyptian city of Mallawi.

Rain of Light will be an annual festival, taking place every year around the same time, dedicated to performance. Organised by the Education and Cultural Programming department, special workshops and tours will accompany this week’s events.

Rain of Light runs from December 11 to 15 in venues across the Louvre Abu Dhabi site, from performances under the dome to those in the Concrete Beach area outdoors. Some are free and others are ticketed. Full festival programming is available here.


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