Abu Dhabi Summer Season - guide
What’s On has a guide to what’s on at the Abu Dhabi Summer Season, featuring David Blaine, Shadowland, Freej Live, Sunidhi Chauhan, and La Verita.
A world-famous illusionist, shadow art, acrobats, famous singers and comedians, plus a Bollywood legend – just a few of the stars performing this month as part of Abu Dhabi’s Summer Season festival. Better free up your diary…
DAVID BLAINE (August 21 to 23)
David Blaine famously encased himself in a block of ice for 63 hours, and lived in a Plexiglass box suspended above London for 44 days. Now he’s performing in Abu Dhabi for the first time. The 41-year-old New Yorker comes with a reputation for being a little bit, shall we say, bonkers, but very few performers have amazed audiences quite like Blaine.
He was first introduced to tricks by a street performer on the New York Subway when he was four years old. He went on to be a regular at drama school as a kid and starred in commercials and TV soaps, before sending a tape of his card tricks and illusions to ABC. They loved it, and he recorded his first show Magic Man in 1997. The rest, as they say, is history. Now it’s time to try and work out if your eyes are playing tricks on you when he appears (and probably disappears) in the nation’s capital.
Five of his most famous stunts…
Lying awake in a coffin with only six inches of headroom would reasonably be classified as something to be avoided. Yet in 1999 Blaine did just that. He spent seven days in the coffin.
Not satisfied with the coffin trick, Blaine decided to chill things down and suffered through 63 hours of standing frozen within an ice block. Movements would cause him to brush against ice and suffer frostbite, so Blaine focused on stillness. Unable to sleep, Blaine began to hallucinate.
Ask any Londoner about Blaine, and this is what they will probably point to: Blaine hanging over the River Thames in a clear box. Blaine certainly incurred the wrath of quite a few locals and tourists. Some hurled food at him, others jeered him. One magazine tried to deliver him a McDonald’s Big Mac via a remote-controlled helicopter. Blaine made it through all 44 days – even though he lost 40lbs and was hospitalised at the end with organ failure.
Underwater record breaker
In April 2008, Blaine set a world record by holding his breath for 17 minutes. He noted feeling his heart and lungs suffering and yet despite extreme stomach pain, didn’t sustain any injury.
Swallowing water and kerosene
Repeating a trick that killed magician Hadji Ali, Blaine practised swallowing litres of water, then kerosene. The goal was to start a fire with the latter and blow it out with the former – all through rapid regurgitation. While Blaine was successful at both, the stunt still carries the associated risk of cancer from the kerosene.
Emirates Palace, West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, 7.30pm, Dhs295. Tel: (02) 6909000. Taxi: Emirates Palace. thinkflash.ae
SHADOWLAND (August 8 to 16)
Michael Tracy, the show’s artistic director, explains why Abu Dhabi will be enthralled by one of the oldest art forms known to man.
Everyone has made shadows in their life at least once. It’s the oldest theatrical technology there is, it’s one of the oldest ways of telling stories. But now, how we do it with Shadowland, it seems like it’s something new. It looks like anyone could make these things but it’s actually quite technical and difficult to make these shapes.
There are no special effects or CGI in Shadowland. There’s no post-production. One of the first shapes we made was a dog. When you see a human being turned into a dog in front of your very eyes, you are witnessing the magic of transformation. It’s my favourite shadow and is the most magical moment in the whole show.
We spend countless hours making shadows. We slave daily over every little nuances. Some shows are all about the dancers and show them in all their glory. Ours on the other hand features dancers contorting into the most difficult positions behind a screen. They might be part of an elephant, and the audience doesn’t knows who is doing what.
Some shadows are simply too difficult to make. There are hundreds that we’ve tried and we’ve failed many times. You have to go outside your boundaries to find which ones don’t work. Certain shapes require a greater number of people, and we only have a small company. Some require too much detail.
The show is the same one we’ve performed all over the world. We’ve recently performed in Australia, Brazil and China. It’s a wonderful story of a girl finding herself. Her rebellion and internal adventure is full of fun and excitement, but also reaches the depths of despair. She finds her own personal strength during this universal story.
At the end of the show, we will perform a special finale. It’s a thank you to Abu Dhabi. We hope it will be a fun tribute to the city and the country.
Shadowland By Pilobolus, Adnec, Abu Dhabi, Dhs150. Tel: (800) 555. Taxi: Adnec. tixbox.com
SUNIDHI CHAUHAN (August 15)
Even if you don’t recognise Indian singer Sunidhi Chauhan’s name, there’s a very good chance you’ve heard her voice. She’s leant her vocal cords to the soundtracks of more than 400 films during her 19-year career as a playback artist and has also worked with Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias. For those of you who aren’t big followers of the Bollywood scene, a playback artist records the songs for movies, which the actors then mime during the film. Playback singers are as famous, if not more so, than some of the movie stars.
But this month, the films take a backseat as the multi-award winning Sunidhi arrives in Abu Dhabi for a performance with her dancing troupe at Emirates Palace Theatre.
What can our readers expect from the show? I’m coming with my whole troupe, including live band members, my sound engineers, my co-artist singer, my MC and my make-up artist. It’s a lot of people for three hours.
Which songs from your career will you be performing? Bollywood music is a big thing; people love the songs from films, whether old or new. There will be footage from the films on big screens behind me so it’s easier for the audience to relate to the songs. Bollywood is loud, so you can guess how it’s going to be.
Which songs do you like to perform the most? I have a lot of soft, romantic songs, which are my favourite, but there are very few show where I get to perform them because our audiences always like to dance, cheer and sing along. So usually you don’t get to sing the songs close to your heart, but in this show I will sing some and I’ll get more personal with the audience. That’s the vibe I’m after.
Do you have anything special planned for your performance in Abu Dhabi? I’m planning a bit of a surprise. I won’t talk about it though, in case it doesn’t work out. But I might play an instrument as well. It’s a special concert one for me, as it’s my first one in Abu Dhabi and my first solo concert, so I want to give my best.
Will you get to tour the city during your visit? I have no idea. With these concerts, you land, you get ready at your hotel, you perform, you return to the hotel, you leave. That is how my life has been all these years. But I am arriving a few days early as I want to rehearse, so maybe I will get some time to look around.
Does the constant travelling that comes with your job get you down sometimes? It’s obviously not OK living out of a suitcase but it’s been 19 years of that so I’m used to it. I love the rush, and the fact we’re always running from here to there.
What keeps you motivated? It’s fun, it keeps you going, you forget you’re tired. Seeing the audience makes it all worth it, especially when they are singing along with you, or there’s a moment of silence – it takes you to another level. I am so thankful to have that feeling. People dance on their seats, they remove their shirts and forget their inhibitions.
Did you always want to be a singer? I never had an ambition to be one. When I was four I did shows in Delhi, then one of my dad’s friends told him I should do it professionally. I got noticed from there, and got a chance to sing in a movie when I was 11 for an actress who was 22. My voice was mature enough to match hers. That’s when I realised I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
How do you deal with fame? In Bombay, because the city is full of stars, and they travel here and there, people keep seeing celebrities on the streets in malls and it’s fine. But when I am anywhere else, people recognise me, they take pictures and autographs – it’s a good feeling.
It sounds like your fans are pretty dedicated… One fan in Nairobi had a tattoo of my face on his right bicep. That was unbelievable. I was shocked – it was perfect. It was from a photo of me and was identical. That’s a big thing, isn’t it? To have my face on your body for the rest of your life. I was really moved.
Emirates Palace Theatre, West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, Dhs195. Tel: (02) 5098000 Taxi: Emirates Palace. abudhabisummerseason.ae
LA VERITA (August 21 to 31)
Surrealism, Salvador Dali and acrobats will bring Abu Dhabi’s Summer Season to a close. Creator Daniele Finzi Pasca explains why the Spanish painter’s life is worthy of its own show.
It’s safe to say Abu Dhabi hasn’t seen a performance quite like La Verita. The show is made by the producers of Cirque du Soleil Corteo and is a theatrical tribute to the life and works of the famous Catalan surrealist and artist Salvador Dali.
In keeping with Salvador’s unusual life, it features acrobats, singers, jugglers, clowns and even the can-can. Expect plenty of colour, feathers, rhinos, deep-sea diving suits, sequins, macabre corpses and giant horses’ heads. But most importantly, the performance is set against the backdrop of an original Dali painting.
“The dreams of Dali are sometimes close to nightmares,” says the show’s creator Daniele Finzi Pasca. “On stage you will see 13 acrobats who are also dancers and actors, who look at the life of Dali but in a narrative form. We cross our language with Salvador’s surrealism.”
While Dali’s art is what many remember him for, Pasca is quick to point out that the show is just as much about the man, who passed away in 1989, as it is his work. “I cannot say he was special for me, he was not one of my favourite painters. I am in more touch with other painters,” adds Pasca. “But what interests me is the life of the man. He had a perception of things, especially at the end of his life. He was much more fragile than what we know. He was crazy and theatrical in early interviews but he was more fragile in his last days.”
The original Dali backdrop that will be part of the show has gained just as much attention as the performance. Dali painted the 9x15m piece of work in New York in 1944 and it will be making its first public appearance in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s a very impressive image, you can see the love,” says Pasca. “You can feel the tragedy mixed with love in this image. Where love and death dance together.”
La Verita is a complex show, featuring dancers from Latin America, Australia, Europe and Canada. And these dancers spend months learning the moves. Such complicated moves, though, come with risks. “When we do a new show, we try and discover new things, so you’ll see some new acrobatics. They take a lot of hours to define and to learn them,” explains Pasca. “The relationship with the public is so fragile: an opera singer should be perfect and not make a mistake. In our case, the fragility is the dancers can break themselves very easily. Each movement on stage is a fight with danger. Acrobats need to be very dedicated. We try to protect them all the time.”
Pasca’s CV is impressive, and perhaps most impressive of all is his work earlier this year at the Sochi Winter Olympics. “I was in Sochi a few months ago and I was very cold, then I was in Colombia with La Verita, which is very high and we played at 3,000m and it was complicated for the acrobats’ bodies. Now we change to a very warm and beautiful climate. But I’m prepared for the heat in the UAE.”
Adnec, Abu Dhabi, Dhs200. Tel: (800) 555. Taxi: Adnec. tixbox.com
Arab Stars Showcase
Some of the region’s finest voices get together for a one-off performance at Emirates Palace. Stars from three TV shows, Arab Idol, Arabs Got Talent and The Voice will sing, including Palestinian singer and Arab Idol winner Mohammed Assaf, Saudi Arabian illusionist Ahmed Al Bayed and speed painting artist Mohammad Al Dairi.
Emirates Palace Theatre, West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, 7.30pm, Dhs195. Taxi: Emirates Palace. abudhabisummerseason.ae
United Nations of Comedy
There’s not enough live comedy in Abu Dhabi in our opinion, so two nights from United Nations Of Comedy goes some way to putting that right. Returning for a second year, this show features seven comics, with the likes of Lebanese funny man Nemr Abou Nassar, US/Palestinian comic Aron Kader, Kuwaiti-born Mo Amer, Egyptian Khaled Khalafalla, MTV star Amir K and, finally, Lebanese/American Sammy Obeid as part of the line-up.
August 28 and 29
Emirates Palace Theatre, West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, 7.30pm, Dhs195. Taxi: Emirates Palace. abudhabisummerseason.ae
Freej Live: Abood’s Dream
The stage show version of the popular Emirati animated TV series is touring Abu Dhabi during August, with stops at Emirates Palace, the Western Region and Al Ain. The cartoon has been on UAE TV screens since 2006 and tells the tale of four elderly Emirati women living in a quiet neighbourhood in modern day Dubai. The star of the stage show is Abood, a cheeky young boy who made his debut in the cartoon in the second series. In Abood’s Dream, he goes on a magical adventure while looking after a canary that lives in a fish bowl.
August 1 to 13
Various locations including Al Ain Municipality Theatre, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, Dhs100. Taxi: Al Ain Municipality Theatre. abudhabisummerseason.ae
Cake Boss Live in Abu Dhabi
American celebrity chef Buddy Valastro, star of US TV show Cake Boss, will perform for one day only in Abu Dhabi this month. Cake Boss Live will feature live cooking demonstrations, a Q&A session with the audience, a cake decoration competition, which anyone can enter, and audience members will be invited on stage to cook with Buddy. Email email@example.com if you wish to take part in the decoration competition.
Cake Boss Live in Abu Dhabi, Emirates Palace Theatre, West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, 3.30pm, Dhs75. Taxi: Emirates Palace. abudhabisummerseason.ae