x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Ductac looks near and far to celebrate the arts

The non-profit Ductac, which hosts music, theatre, art and dance events and educational workshops, is planning an ambitious new season. We catch up with Joseph Fowler to find out more.

Joseph Fowler, the general manager of Ductac, is eager to use more local talent in forthcoming productions. Sarah Dea/The National
Joseph Fowler, the general manager of Ductac, is eager to use more local talent in forthcoming productions. Sarah Dea/The National

The non-profit Ductac, which hosts music, theatre, art and dance events and educational workshops, is planning an ambitious new season. We catch up with Joseph Fowler to find out more.

What's new

Plans are underway to include performances and events for both amateurs and professionals, and to have new and more diverse material that caters to the range of nationalities in the community. The planned shake-up includes an as-yet unnamed play by Shakespeare, which will mark the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre's (Ductac) first play to be performed in Arabic.

"This will be the first time that Ductac actually creates an event we present ourselves, so it's quite a courageous and adventurous thing to do," says Joseph Fowler, the general manager of Ductac.

Since joining the centre last year, Fowler, who has a background in classical dance, has worked to "introduce and embrace every part of the community".

"We've been quite exclusively catering primarily to an English-speaking audience," says Fowler. "Now, we can't steer away from that because when you look at the statistics there's a large English-speaking population, but I'm trying to embrace other cultures like the French, Filipino, Brazilian, Indian and, of course, the Arabic population."

Ductac will celebrate UAE National Day for the first time. It is also considering an opera, a Brazilian festival and an event involving Chinese art.

The Osipova Ballet Company from St Petersburg has been invited to perform The Nutcracker for the first time in the UAE. Last year's production of The Nutcracker by the Vienna Festival Ballet sold out and Fowler is hoping for the same result this year.

"It's about introducing tradition," he says. "A desire to have something recurring. It can't always be a one-shot thing because people see it and then it's gone and forgotten."

The annual Sharmila Dance Gala, too, will return in December. Plans for next year include the contemporary art platform MinD and a classical musical from Spotlight Academy, which recently produced CATS.

Arts education

Ductac is also hoping to connect with local students and will invite them backstage to meet the actors, sound and lighting designers and choreographers.

"We did that with CATS and I'm very proud because we had several UAE nationals in our musical, which never happened before," says Fowler. "This is important to develop, because the youth of today is our audience of tomorrow."

The goal of the outreach programmes is to encourage the youth to appreciate all elements of the performing arts.

"Look at the Oscars: there are awards for sound and set design and costume and so on," says Fowler. "One interesting project we also discussed is a children's film festival."

Ductac also plans to show movies from different areas and organise forums to discuss and compare interpretations of the movies.

Pioneers in the arts

"Art can change the whole way a population thinks," says Fowler. "When you look at how we understand and how we trace, how man lived centuries ago, we look at calligraphy, clothes, pottery, jewellery - we look at art. That's our reference."

He believes the UAE's performing arts community has an advantage because it is still developing.

"How fortunate we are to be pioneers, because we are creating a cultural trace," he says. "In many other parts of the world that stage has already happened, but we are at that stage - we can create history because it's so fresh and young, so join our team of pioneers."

Fowler also believes that for the arts to continue moving in the right direction, a few things need to change, especially when it comes to nurturing local talent.

"It's a huge challenge when the trend is 'credibility comes from abroad', which couldn't be further from the truth," he says. "There are phenomenally brilliant things that come from abroad and it should continue, but there are incredibly talented people here who just don't get the opportunity or get overlooked."

He recommends increased co-productions between the Emirates and the region, and working with international theatres, festivals and organisations such as the British Council, which already supports Ductac. This, he thinks, could lead to more locally produced shows travelling abroad.

"As long as I'm GM, the doors of Ductac will be open to anyone who has an idea and is not afraid to say 'I've never done it before', because we can then guide them."

melshoush@thenational.ae