BILL BRAGIN INTERVIEW: Dynamic and diverse artistic journeys through the art of storytelling

It’s the first time that contemporary dance initiative Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels is collaborating with The Arts Center.

The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi’s Season 8 kicked off on 8 September with a dynamic performance by Ethiopian-American singer-songwriter Meklit, who incidentally founded The Nile Project, which was part of The Arts Center’s inaugural season.

Described by American Songwriter as “a dynamo. A force. A person to know and cherish…”, Meklit certainly lived up to this accolade as she headed on stage where she showcased her renowned transmedia project, Movement, exploring the complex relationship between migration and music through sound and song, thus firmly cementing The Arts Center Season 8’s theme of Stories.

Season 8 is The Arts Center’s first ‘complete’, in-person programme since the pandemic. And Executive Artistic Director at NYUAD Arts Center, Bill Bragin, along with all of us, is tangibly excited.

On the theme, Stories, Bill says: “It invites audiences and artists alike to travel on a rich artistic journey; new and unfamiliar, comforting, challenging or unexpected, but always dynamic and diverse.”

In a first, contemporary dance initiative Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels is collaborating with The Arts Center, to curate a robust dance series where, through movement and dance, stories unfurl on the Abu Dhabi stage.

“Historically, Van Cleef & Arpels has a century old alignment with dance; an important part of their history, they connect the artistry and the craft of the jewellery making,” says Bill who reveals how they supported the commissioning of George Balanchine, an American ballet choreographer who was one of the most influential 20th-century choreographers.

“It’s a very strong legacy for the Maison, who have been coming to the performances for the past three years.

”Bill shares how Van Cleef & Arpels had, prior to the pandemic, revealed to The Arts Center that they were launching this programme.

“The focus of the initiative is dance presentation, creation, education, and transmission which in their terminology is really looking at preserving and extending the canon. It really tracks so well with what we have been doing over the years.”


The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi


A restaging of Trisha Brown’s landmark choreography Set and Reset/Reset and Jeanine Durning’s recent Last Shelter – Candoco Dance Company, presented with the support of Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels – is set to light up the Red Theater with “intimacy, virtuosity, and precision embodied in movement by the world’s foremost inclusive dance company.

“Over the past few years, The Arts Center has presented the work of Trisha Brown. We did a site specific programme of her work; we presented Lucinda Childs’ dance; we presented the work of Merce Cunningham; so what I mean by the word ‘transmission’ is taking recent historical works and reframing that,” says Bill.

Bill goes on to say how The Arts Center aims to continue to grow and invest in the UAE’s dancing ecosystem.

“When we present this kind of dance, we have been selling out fairly consistently. It is really rewarding because it recognises how important this contribution is to the UAE.”

Image source The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi,Waleed Shah, Camilla Greenwill, Hassan, Samuel Prather and Michael Weintrob