Arooj Aftab and Moroccan circus among NYUAD Arts Center’s new season lineup


After two years of limited offerings owing to the pandemic, the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center is back in full swing.

The organization announced the line-up for its eight season, with all performances and film screenings held physically, in addition to the return of the popular two-day music event, the Barzakh Festival.

The centre’s artistic director Bill Bragin says the season, running until April, will feature local, regional and international talent.

“The season’s theme, ‘stories’, invites audiences and artists alike to travel on a rich artistic journey that may be new and unfamiliar, comforting, challenging or unexpected, but always dynamic and diverse,” he said.

For the full list of shows, go to www.nyuad-artscenter.org; tickets for all shows are Dh100 each, unless otherwise stated.

Here, discover the main highlights of the centre’s winter programme, with more artists to be announced at a later date.

1. The gigs

Another eclectic selection of concerts is on offer at the Red Theatre, with artists covering genres from Arabic hip-hop to electronic music and jazz.

The season opener, on Thursday, September 8, will have Ethiopian-American singer-songwriter Meklit performing her multimedia production movement.

In addition to performing her own works, Meklit, a former radio broadcaster, will lace her show with interviews and guest performances by UAE artists, including Somali rapper Freek, Syrian singer Ghaliaa Chaker and Filipino multi-instrumentalist Cromwell Ojeda from the group Muhaisnah Four.

On Thursday, October 6, Grammy-nominated US saxophonist Ravi Coltrane will dig deep into his past by performing his own takes of tracks by jazz pioneers and his late parents, John and Alice Coltrane.

For an evening of sensual Latin soul and jazz music, make sure to check out Raul Midon and Alex Cuba, who make their UAE debut with a joint concert on Thursday, November 3.

The American and Cuban-Canadian musicians, respectively, will perform solo and collaborative works from careers spanning three decades.

2. A world music festival

The UAE’s home-grown world music event, the Barzakh Festival, also returns on Friday and Saturday, February 3 and 4 at the East Plaza of NYUAD with an acclaimed headliner.

Performing on the first day is Arooj Aftab, who this year became the first Pakistani artist to win a Grammy Award — the Best Global Music Performance award for her song Muhammad. The singer will bring her fusion of Urdu poetry and North African rhythms to Abu Dhabi, alongside Algerian group Lemma.

The following night will see a joint performance by Venezuelan singer Betsayda Machado and La Parranda El Clavo for an energetic set of psychedelic Afro-Latin rock and soul music.

Barzakh Festival tickets are Dh150 for each night.

3. Theater and dance performances

The Candoco Dance Company from the US perform their version of Set and Resetan acclaimed 1983 production by choreographer Trisha Brown.

Taking place on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, September 29, 30 and October 1, the work features a beautiful score by experimental composer Laurie Anderson and raises important conversations about dance and disability.

September 29 and 30 will also see an encore performance of Already Raheel | Departure by Emirati playwright Reem Almenhali at the Black Box.

The bilingual play was staged at NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arts Center in 2020 and is a modern story of a woman growing up in some of the UAE’s multicultural cities.

In the run-up to UAE National Day, the arts center will also gather a diverse group of UAE creatives, who will perform poetry, prose and songs as part of the Hekayah | The Story show on Monday, November 28 at the East Plaza.

The Palestinian American Yaa Samar! Dance Theater group will bring their immersive production, last ward, to the Red Theater on Friday, February 10.

The work blends dance with spoken work for a show described as technically dazzling and filled with pathos.

4. The movie screenings

Curated by NYU Abu Dhabi, two monthly free screenings will take place at the Blue Hall as part of the CinemaNa film series.

On Monday, October 3, Jordanian filmmaker Zaid Abu Hamdan will be on hand for an in-conversation session following the screening of last year’s film Daughters of Abdulrahman.

Last year’s Palestinian movie Huda’s Salon will be featured on Monday, November 7, with a Q&A session with director Hany Abu-Assad.

5. The big finish

The season will end in colorful style, courtesy of a performance by Moroccan circus troupe Groupe acrobatique de Tanger.

Their new production Fiq! is described as an “otherworldly collection of acrobatic feats, figures, colours, music sketches, head-spins and choreography.”

Updated: August 18, 2022, 2:43 PM

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