Bill Bragin, Executive Artistic Director at The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) revealed in a press conference today the details of the Art Center’s first half of the seventh season.
Now and into the future, the theme for the seventh season, echoes the UAE’s 50th Anniversary Jubilee and the future orientation of EXPO 2020.
Bill outlined how the planned events speak to the theme, showcasing music, theatre, dance, film, poetry, and interdisciplinary performances which take stock of the current moment, as well as lay the groundwork for future artistic development.
The fall lineup of premieres and cross-border collaborations begins with the film It Ain’t Where You From, on 7 September, followed by a live Q&A with the creator, Philip Rachid, aka SOULTROTTER.
Co-commissioned by The Arts Center and London’s Shubbak Festival, Dubai-based filmmaker Philip Rachid presents an empowering exploration of the Middle East’s underground hip-hop scene – combining compelling breakdancing, incisive spoken word poetry, a pulsating soundtrack, and rich vibrant cinematography – to capture the importance of street culture in creative self-expression in the Gulf.
The new first-half of the fall season will continue the innovative online format of previous seasons, with the programme featuring distinguished artists from around the world, alongside student, faculty, and community productions.
The Arts Center draws on the resources of the University to create a dynamic space for research, investigation, and the active pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, with the intention for artists and audiences alike to come curious and leave inspired.
Central to the Arts Center’s Seventh Season is the launching of a new initiative in support of UAE artists., which is supported by the US Mission to the UAE, furthering the aims of the International Year of Creative Industry and the Sustainable Development, aligning with the goals of the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth.
Numoo, ‘growth’ in Arabic and the name of the initiative, is a year-long development for selected UAE based artists with a year-long curriculum programme to further their professional skills.
Artists selected from music, theatre, dance, spoken word, performance art, and multidisciplinary backgrounds for the programme will receive training from The Arts Center staff, local and international arts professionals, as well as each other one another, providing important guidance which will enhance their skills to bring their work to audiences in the UAE and abroad.
“The launch of Numoo, The Arts Center’s artist development programme, will allow us to play a vital role in strengthening the UAE’s artistic and cultural ecosystem, giving artists an expanded toolkit to adapt to an ever-changing world, and build sustainable careers for the future,” said Bill Bragin, speaking at the season’s press conference, Executive Artistic Director at The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi.
Bill also spoke about how through commissioning and professional development “The Art Center’s investment into the UAE’s performing arts economy continues to be vital to our mission”.
“We spark artistic creations that bring tradition and innovation together for borderless possibilities,” he said.
“Over the past 18 months, we have learned that we can continue to serve our mission to simultaneously showcase eclectic global talent and support the local arts scene through online channels, and that investing in artists and artworks is an essential part of how we create a path into the future.
“Our commissioning of six Kenyan female artists to create new micro-plays for an ingenious online platform, alongside a number of other projects by UAE based and international artists, is one way that we continue to support artistic production.
Also, during the conference, Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi Robin Solomon, said: “The U.S. Mission to the UAE is proud to work with NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arts Center to support UAE artists and the creative economy, while also aligning with the UAE’s vision, Towards the Next 50, and the United States’ goal to support the next generation of creators, performers, and entrepreneurs in the UAE.”
Associate Director of External Relations at The Arts Center Reem Saleh added: “The past year has humbled us, encouraging us to rethink our roles and commitment to the arts ecosystem across the country and beyond.
“The online platform reinforced the expansion of partnerships beyond the usual reach, both within the UAE and internationally. Through these relationships we are continuing to explore new ways to support artists and foster homegrown talents, bringing tradition and innovation together for borderless possibilities.
“We are honored to join forces with valuable thought-provoking communities who are interested in expanding access to the performing arts.”
The fall lineup kicks off 7 September with the film It Ain’t Where You From, with Dubai-based filmmaker Philip Rachid presenting an empowering exploration of the Middle East’s underground hip-hop scene – combining compelling breakdancing, incisive spoken word poetry, a pulsating soundtrack, and rich vibrant cinematography – to capture the importance of street culture in creative self-expression in the Gulf.
The film, which is the first manifestation of a larger transmedia live performance to premiere later, features the artists’ personal journeys, revealing how hip-hop gives voice to a generation of artists from the region who have made the UAE their home.
September fan favourites such as Theatre for One: We Are Here returns, with this season featuring the Nairobi Edition.
Following last season’s groundbreaking US-led debut, the digital theatrical experience brings together one actor and one audience member to experience live performances of one of six new micro-plays, featuring six female artists from Nairobi.
In late September, Sudanese-American rapper Oddisee and Tunisian hip-hop artist Medusa TN will perform in sets filmed exclusively for JAM3A, an online music festival celebrating Arab talent, community, and identity, followed by a live Q&A with the Dubai-based, Saudi hip-hop pioneer, Big Hass.
On 10 November sEODo BAND / 서도 밴드 will make their Middle East online debut.
Presented in collaboration with the UAE Korean Cultural Center, this exclusive performance will spotlight Korea’s rising stars in an unexpected yet captivating musical conversation between contemporary and traditional elements.
The season will also welcome the return of some of The Arts Center’s favourites.
The Music Recital Series presented with the NYUAD Music Program. Rounding out the series is Music Chamber Evening, where leading UAE-based musicians will present some of classical music’s greatest works from duo to quintet, on 25 November.
The fifth season of contemporary Arab cinema series CinemaNa will run monthly on Mondays through October and November.
In line with The Arts Center’s ongoing mission to support the local arts scene, the tenth season of Rooftop Rhythms returns monthly on a new night of the week, Wednesdays at 8pm.
The Middle East’s longest-running open mic night with leading and up-and-coming spoken word artists, poets, and musicians presenting original material, stays online for the fall with one notable exception.
In November, the seventh annual Hekayah | The Story will celebrate UAE National Day in a special 50th Anniversary Jubilee online edition.
Poets, spoken word artists, musicians, and storytellers, hailing from diverse backgrounds and cultures, will showcase the beautiful diversity of the UAE; exploring their heritages and asking: what does home mean to you – your country, your city, your family, your living room?
The virtual platform also deeply impacted The Arts Center’s influence in educational spheres.
During the 2020-21 online season, The Arts Center hosted more than 50 virtual class visits across NYUAD engaging with more than 575 students.
Beyond this, the Off The Stage program was shared not only with the NYUAD community, but reached across the emirates as well as internationally with digital views of more than 180,000 for some of the exciting conversations and workshops.
Director of Artistic Planning at The Arts Center at NYUAD Linsey Bostwick said: “For this season, we have even further expanded our efforts to connect The Arts Center’s work to educational efforts at NYUAD, and with other UAE universities, primary, and secondary schools, thanks to our expanded partnership with the US Mission to the UAE.
“Our workshops and talks will spotlight how artists remain creative and vital despite the challenges and obstacles. Together, we ignite emotion and inspire conversations.”
Furthering its goals to invest in and support the development of the creative economy in the UAE, The Arts Center is commissioning a study of the UAE’s dance sector by the HIBA Art Project, a cultural initiative which strives to make the dance art form an integral part of the cultural life of the UAE.
It aims to bring dance and movement to all ages and groups of society. The study will document the dance landscape of the UAE and will provide an overview of traditional dances and existing genres and players of the field, analyse the ecosystems and infrastructure, and will serve as a tool for field development guidelines to develop the field.
Also new to The Arts Center this year is the formation of an Arts Center Advisory Circle, comprising diverse leaders from Abu Dhabi’s cultural and business communities — Noura Ali Ramahi, Yvette Campbell, Kathy Riley Ebbertsen, Brian Lott, and Hanan Sayed Worrell – who will serve as ambassadors to the larger community and deepen the center’s relationships.