x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Folklore, flamenco and Classics

Cultural calendar Freej Folklore, billed as 'the largest Arab theatrical production of all time', is a pyrotechnic explosion of dance, light and sound.

The animated television show <i>Freej</i> comes to life on stage in  <i>Freej Folklore</i>.
The animated television show <i>Freej</i> comes to life on stage in <i>Freej Folklore</i>.

Freej Folklore, billed as "the largest Arab theatrical production of all time", is a pyrotechnic explosion of dance, light and sound. It is based on the popular animated TV show about four Emirati women in a Dubai neighbourhood. The show became a cultural phenomenon as the characters attempted to reconcile tradition with an ever-expanding city - with hilarious results. That same concept is more or less brought to the stage. The heroines decide to go off looking for the Tree of Wisdom. Enter the genre tour guide, who narrates the adventurous quattro through the region's myths and legends, travels and traditions, and achievements in science. A dance troupe brings the encyclopaedic spectacle to life, and the result is something along the lines of Cirque du Soleil meets DreamWorks. The cast bounces and twirls its way across a 40 metre stage and multilayered screen. Ah, yes. The screen. Three levels, 7.6 metres high and 41 metres wide in double high definition resolution, all in an effort to bring the animated characters to life. It works. The gargantuan genie soars gloriously across the stage while the women wriggle in a pile of gold. There's hair-swaying, hip-jiggling, acrobatics, lasers and flowing costumes.

The Spanish singer Diego Amador delivers his interpretation of flamenco on Thursday as part of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage's Music of the World series. And I only say flamenco because no other genre quite fits. Don't arrive expecting a Gypsy Kings concert. While Amador's voice is remarkably similar to the sonorous stylings of the Spanish-sounding band, his instrument of choice is the piano. His music feels jazzy, sometimes even bluesy, with trills up and down the keys every which way, his voice floating in and out and over. Without any formal training, Diego presents an original take on a traditional genre. The results are indeed impressive.

Maxim Shostakovich conducts the fifth symphony of his father, the composer Dmitri Shostakovich, on Saturday as part of the Abu Dhabi Classics series. Maxim will be at the helm of London's Philharmonia Orchestra as they take the audience through one of his father's most popular pieces. It's a sharp, energetic triumph of Soviet composition, reputed to have received a 40-minute ovation when it opened in 1947. Shostakovich's connection to the music is both professional and personal, and it shows in his passionate execution of the score. Also included in the programme is Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, featuring the award-winning violinist Sergey Khachatryan as soloist. The youngest musician ever to win the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition, Khachatryan plays on the 1708 Huggins Stradivarius violin on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation, and is renowned for his mature style and reverence of the music.

A double bill in Indian contemporary art opens on Thursday at Dubai's 1X1 Gallery. Rajesh Ram captures mundane images and reinterprets them with a rich palette and added detail. A surplus of limbs is a recurring motif, with children bearing prostheses of vegetables and knives. These bizarre images allude to the professions of the children's parents and how fate is often sealed by family background. Pratul Dash's acrylic works, meanwhile, explore the darker side behind urbanity. Individuals are shown in isolation, their faces obscured by distance. The figures represent a loss of identity in the mad race towards modernisation.

Freej Folklore, Jan 8-17, evening shows in English and Arabic. Dh200-Dh1,200. Madinat Jumeirah Arena, Jumeirah, Sofouh Road, Dubai (@email:www.folklore.ae). Diego Amador, Jan 8, 8.30pm, Al Dhafra Auditorium, Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, Airport Road, between Electra and Hamdan, (@email:www.adach.ae). Abu Dhabi Classics, Shostakovich conducts Shostakovich, Jan 10, 8pm, Dh250-Dh650 (Dh30 for students), Emirates Palace Auditorium, West End Corniche, Abu Dhabi (02 690 9000, @email:www.emiratespalace.com). City Breathes/City Breeds, Pratul Dash and Rajesh Ram, Jan 8-20. 1x1 Art Gallery, Al-Wasl Road, Al-Manara, Dubai (04 348 3873, @email:www.1x1artgallery.com).