Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Meet the Emirati circus performer who has been lighting up Ajman this summer - in pictures

We meet Humaid Al Dhahery, who claims to be the UAE's first Emirati circus performer, after his popular 'Laser Man' show

As the lights go down and the music is turned up, everybody starts to shriek in anticipation. Dry ice spills out across the room and from a small side door emerges a strange figure, covered in dozens of green and red bulbs that pierce the darkness. This otherworldly vision makes its way slowly to the centre of a large stage, where it proceeds to whirl around with such velocity that the individual lights blur into a single hallucinogenic sheet of luminescence. It is mesmerising and slightly terrifying, like watching a robot short-circuit.

But this is not the set of the latest sci-fi blockbuster, nor is it the scene of some volatile experiment by a wacky inventor. In fact, it is all taking place on the first floor of City Life Al Tallah Mall in Ajman, a simple escalator ride up from an enormous supermarket, which, with its bright aisles of everyday products, feels almost insultingly mundane.

The man responsible for this extraordinary juxtaposition is ­Humaid Al Dhahery, 31, who claims to be the first Emirati circus performer. Twice a week this season, as part of the mall’s Summer Festival, which ­features food stalls (I can recommend the pasta made to order by the ­Ghanaian woman in stall 23), shops and a children’s play area, Al Dhahery has been putting on his free Laser Man show (the final two ­performances take place on July 18 and 19).

The show is drawing significant crowds and no wonder – Al Dhahery, the man inside the flashing suit, combines eccentric dance moves, slick circus tricks, powerful lasers and a pulsating techno soundtrack to put on a first-rate dose of family entertainment. As one woman says: “It’s like being at a rave for kids.”

The intensity of Laser Man ratchets up as Al Dhahery brings more and more props to the party, including a lightsabre-like object, which he twirls around his head and rolls down his back, catching it just as it threatens to hit the floor and break the spell; and lasers, which shoot from devices strapped to his hands and forehead.

“It is very exciting to see how the audience reacts to the show,” he tells me, dabbing the sweat from his cheeks after another high-octane ­performance. “Sometimes I get ­nervous if there is a big audience, but if things go wrong, I will quickly change to another trick, so people think the mistake was part of the routine. I want to make everyone happy.” Al Dhahery also performs a similar show but with fire on the props, though not, for obvious reasons, in the mall.

The children who have come to see Laser Man are certainly leaving with broad grins on their faces. But no one seems to be happier than Al Dhahery, who gets to play out his childhood dreams night after night. The performer, who was born and raised in Sharjah, recalls going to the circus as an eight-year-old. “I can still remember it now,” Al Dhahery tells me. “From that moment on, it was my hobby. I was very naughty as a child. I liked to do things for the first time, even if they hurt me. I tried doing some tricks with fire once and burnt my hand, my parents were very angry.”

It was only last year, though, that he decided to turn his hobby into something more serious. He began watching YouTube videos of Russian and Chinese circus performers for inspiration and practising juggling, as well as his Laser Man routine, for up to four hours a day, despite ­holding a full-time job as an immigration officer in Sharjah. Al Dhahery also travelled to China recently to take part in an intensive training course. He doesn’t lack for commitment.

“Before I go to sleep, I try to learn one thing by watching a video of new tricks or practising,” he says. “I always end my day like this. At the moment, I can juggle with four pieces, next I want to juggle with five pieces. Training is very difficult, I hurt myself so many times.”

Anyone can take part. Sometimes kids say they want to join me, so I will try to build a full Emirati circus troupe.

Humaid Al Dhahery

Mastering the dexterity needed to juggle with fire is not the only obstacle Al Dhahery has faced, though. There doesn’t appear to be any history of Emirati circus performers, even if international circus troupes do visit the UAE regularly. Al ­Dhahery has therefore had to convince ­sceptical friends and family that this is the right path for him to pursue. “Everybody was against me because no one has done this in the UAE,” he says. “In our culture, we prefer tradition. But when people see my show, they change their minds. It’s a new style.”

Al Dhahery now hopes his efforts will encourage other Emiratis to have a go at performing circus tricks. “Anyone can take part,” he says. “Sometimes kids say they want to join me, so I will try to build a full Emirati circus troupe.” And he has already set his sights on expanding beyond the UAE. Following a trip to Dammam in Saudi Arabia last year, where he was invited to perform by Saudi Aramco, Al Dhahery’s ambition is to “take the show to other countries”.

It would be no surprise if Al ­Dhahery’s dreams of managing and being part of a touring circus show becomes a family affair. He has two sons and the eldest, still only three years old, is already showing ­promise as a poi performer (poi involves swinging weights attached to strings, often in time to music). “One of my sons is training with me,” he says. “So maybe we will have a family ­circus [even though] my wife is worried I will hurt myself.”

For the time being, though, Al ­Dhahery is simply focusing on ­bringing the joy of the circus to as many people in the UAE as ­possible. “I am trying to do something good for my country,” he says. “And to prove that UAE residents can do anything.”

Humaid Al Dhahery will perform ‘Laser Man’ at City Life Al Tallah Mall in Ajman on July 18 and July 19 at 7pm

Updated: July 16, 2019 08:17 AM

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