The show must go on: this is the message from the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Centre as they unveil their sixth performance season. With the pandemic halting live events in the capital, the centre has moved its offerings online, with performances streamed on various platforms, including the university's website and Zoom.
While the centre’s Reconnect series of streamed concerts, held from April to June, showed recorded performances from the previous five seasons, a lot of the new season will be performed live, with artist Q&A sessions after the show.
From innovative experimental theatre to traditional music from South Korea, the sixth season’s line up could be the centre’s most adventurous yet.
"And people are ready for it," artistic director Bill Bragin tells The National. "What we saw and realised from the great success of Reconnect was that there was this huge craving for the arts, and that people, during these times, are finding a sort of solace from that.
"So with this fall season we wanted to bring pieces that really try to capture the moments that we are in right now.”
Below are the main highlights of the winter programme of the sixth season. The 2021 component of the season will be announced later this year.
Robot dance party with Kid Koala
Music, technology, creativity and crafts come together in this series of three shows. Normally a Kid Koala gig requires dancing sneakers but, in this case, material and a big imagination will be needed.
For the season opener on Saturday, September 5, the Canadian artist, real name Eric San, will provide a colourful soundtrack of electronic tunes while families create a robot costume.
Don’t throw the costume away, as on Saturday, October 10, families are encouraged to attend an online Kid Koala gig in their creations, which will be used for a video by visual artist Corinne Merrell. Both of these shows start at 4pm.
For a more traditional, albeit chilled, DJ performance, Koala returns for the season closer on Thursday, December 10. Dubbed “music to draw to,” this chilled gig is meant to trigger inspiration, with Koala dropping ambient tunes while you study or create. This show will begin from 8pm; all are free to attend.
Your own private theatre show
One of two ticketed shows as part of the season, running several times on Wednesday, September 9, As Far as Isolation Goes is a collaboration between Lebanese artist Tania El Khoury and Palestinian musician and street artist Basel Zaraa.
The immersive and intimate show is built from their successful live performance As Far as My Fingertips Take Me. Reimagined for the pandemic era, this is a one-on-one performance on Zoom, so there is only one audience member at a time. In it, Zaara tells a story of refugees, mental health and discovery. During the show, you are asked to unconsciously draw on your arm with a pen.
“This is a really interesting piece of micro-theatre,” Bragin says. “Because the shows doesn’t run for long. And since there is literally the one audience member we are going to do a few of them. The interesting thing here is that you have the opportunity to break 'the fourth wall', in that you can share your response or ask some questions of the performer. The cool thing about this is that you're both right there, artist and audience, together in the moment.” Tickets cost Dh52.50.
Choose your own adventure with a stranger
Another ticketed show running from Wednesday, October 7 to Sunday, October 18, this is a production created by the award-winning experimental theatre company 600 Highwaymen.
The performance comes with a format as interactive as it is gripping. You and a stranger hop on separate mobile phone calls and listen to a mysterious voice who gives you various instructions. It is an entirely new form of social interaction.
“Part of the idea with this piece is about asking the question of how can you connect with a stranger when you're not walking in the streets, when you are not going to the store or when you are not in public?” Bragin says. “The piece goes deeper in that it is about us bridging the distance between each other in this time of isolation.” Tickets cost Dh52.50.
Films from the region with Cinema Na
A collaboration between NYU Abu Dhabi and Sorbonne Abu Dhabi, a series of three monthly screenings begins on Monday, October 12 with Saudi director Shahad Ameen's Scales (2019). The dystopian tale is set in a traditional fishing village ruled by brutal customers.
On Sunday, November 1, you can check out Sofia (2018) by Moroccan director Meryem Benm'Barek-Aloisi. Set in Casablanca, the drama follows the titular character who has 24 hours to tell her father she gave birth out of wedlock before the authorities do.
Concluding the series on Monday, December 7 is You Will Die at Twenty (2019) by UAE-based Sudanese filmmaker Amjad Abu Alala. A deeply poetic film, the plot centres on Muzamil who is informed by a holy man of the year he will die. The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with Abu Alala.
Piano recital: from Debussy to Rachmaninoff with Ioannis Potamousis
Described by the classical music press as the "the new Colossus of the keys," the Greek virtuoso will take to the stage at 7.30pm on Monday, October 26 to perform two landmark pieces from classical piano repertoire: Debussy's 12 Preludes and Rachmaninoff's Piano Sonata No.2.
The 12 Preludes is an exhaustive oeuvre of the piano, using all 88 keys to build towering arpeggios and harmonies. While the Piano Sonata No.2 is a showcase of Rahmaninoff's ability to meld power with compositional focus.
Sacred Korean music: Ak Dan Gwang Chil
Hear the splendor of Korean traditional music with a performance by the ensemble Ak Dan Gwang Chil, also known as ADG7.
Consisting of musicians and three singers, the group’s repertoire is rooted in the traditions of the Hwanghae Province, presently in North Korea. Bragin describes the music as “sacred and shamanic”. The concert is on Wednesday, November 18 at 8pm.
Experience the motion of displacement with #JeSuis
British-Indian choreographer Aakash Odedra and a Turkish dance ensemble have built a piece that explores the anxieties that come from displacement.
The production was originally commissioned by the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Centre and was filmed in the university's Black Box venue in 2018. Odedra and members of his company will appear after the showing of #JeSuis for a live Q&A discussion. The show streams on Thursday, November 12 at 8pm.
Hekaya and Rooftop Rhythms return
An artistic celebration of the UAE, on Wednesday, November 25, Hekayah will gather a diverse group of UAE creatives, who will perform poetry, prose and song. The show begins at 7pm.
Meanwhile, one of the region's longest running poetry open mic nights, Rooftop Rhythms, will run monthly on Fridays, starting September 11 (time to be revealed soon). Artists will be provided a platform to showcase their talent in front of an appreciative crowd. The point of the event is to foster locally based talent, so make sure to perform an original piece of work.
For the full list of shows, go to www.nyuad-artscenter.org; all shows are free to attend unless otherwise stated