10 facts about The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi that you probably didn’t know

The Sixth Season is drawing to a close and here are some of the artists and events that have been a part of the performing arts journey in the UAE.

Situated in Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi’s cultural hub, The Arts Center is a vibrant laboratory for performance that both presents and develops work.

The Arts Center fosters a dynamic relationship between the arts, scholarship, and the community, with a range of public programmes that animates and enriches the cultural life of both Abu Dhabi and the university itself.


10 brilliant facts



Ground breaking

Over six seasons, The Arts Center’s three venues – The Red Theater, Blue Hall and Black Box – have hosted over 200 artists residencies, and commissioned or co-commissioned 34 new works.


An international affair

Artists who have performed at The Arts Center represent more than 50 countries, while the 21 full time staff at The Arts Center come from nine countries.


World premieres

62 artists have made their UAE debuts, while 15 performances had their world premiere on the stages of The Arts Center.


The smallest

Smallest audience size: Tied: 1 (for Theatre For One: Here We Are in April, 2021 and As Far as Isolation Goes by Tania El Koury and Basel Zaraa in September 2020).


The longest

Longest performance: 27 hours – for Nik Bärtsch’s Mobile: The Abu Dhabi Resonance Square Ritual in September 2016).


The biggest

The largest company to perform at one time: European Youth Orchestra, with more than 110 performers on The Red Theater stage for its performance in 2018.



Large performance space: Trisha Brown: In Plain Site in 2017. Brown’s dancers began in The Black Box and then travelled to non-seated locations throughout the campus (across roughly 1km) including the West Plaza, and multiple bridges on the Highline, balconies, and the roof of the Campus Center.


Box city

Breaking the fourth wall, 6,000 cardboard boxes were used in We Built This City, an interactive play by Polyglot Theatre that allowed the audience to play the role of the performer and creator, where children built a city of boxes followed by the decimation of said city. And another performance, Tania el Khoury’s Gardens Speak, literally (but not that literally) had audience members lying on a dirt-filled theatrical graveyard.


In the red



The 690-seat Red Theater has 42 moving panels in the ceiling and walls to change the acoustics of the room. It has been transformed in many other ways, such as when the backstage/stage elevator was used as part of a performance for Gardens Speak in 2018. Another transformation was when a human size aquarium was placed on the Central Plaza of NYU Abu Dhabi in Holoscenes by Lars Jan’s Early Morning opera in November 2016, where performers were submerged in a tank flooded with 13-tons of water. 


People power

Over 120,000 people have attended performances, while an additional 12,000 people have attended Off The Stage events.


For more information and to explore the latest events, go to nyuad-artscenter.org/

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