The UAE is fast becoming as known for its vibrant arts and culture scene as it is for its beaches. While there is no doubt Dubai Opera has brought some jaw-dropping, world-famous productions to its beautifully crafted stage, there has long been a talent-rich performing arts scene in the Emirates, and it’s the kids who are the real stars of the show.
Ferne Reynolds, of Dubai-based performing arts school Drama Scene, is delighted about the impact Downtown’s cultural addition has had. However, she believes other venues, and the people behind them, have had a far greater impact.
“The opening up of Dubai Opera and the shows we now have access to definitely popularise performing arts, but the Madinat Theatre and DUCTAC have offered much support in growing the scene over the years,” she says. “DUCTAC, in particular, provides outstanding facilities for schools such as ours to offer professional performing arts classes to children.”
And Kerry Quin, general manager of another popular drama school, Kids Theatre Works!, agrees with that sentiment. “The art and culture scene in the UAE in general seems to be growing exponentially and community theatres like DUCTAC play such a big part in encouraging drama, musical theatre and performing arts from a grass roots level,” she says. “The variety of shows and exhibitions that are showcased in the region now are really impressive.”
She adds: “Theatre inspires children on so many levels and in Dubai we are very lucky to have these world-class facilities to facilitate growth through the arts.”
We know some children are natural-born performers, while others who are normally quite shy, really find their voice on stage. And it’s up to professional performing arts schools – as well as the all-important end-of-year school productions – to tease this out.
“Being home to some fantastic performing arts schools who hold their end-of-year performances in our theatres, we at DUCTAC are stunned to see what children can do when properly guided,” says DUCTAC’s general manager, Richard Evans. “Learning performance arts at a young age goes way beyond just learning drama or dancing. It does wonders for self-confidence, develops key life skills such as public speaking, body language and much more.”
The evidence certainly seems to back this up. Children encouraged to dance, sing, act, debate and present from a young age at school often go on to find job interviews and negotiating tricky situations as adults far less daunting.
“To find their voice on the stage a child has to first learn to trust themselves and their peers to be brave and overcome inhibition,” explains Quin. “Aspects of performing arts, especially improvisation, help young people understand how to gauge situations, think objectively and be more confident going into unfamiliar situations.”
There is no doubt that it has taken time to build the performing arts scene in the UAE and that the transient nature of the population here perhaps makes building consistent growth that little bit harder. But that does appear to be changing.
“Theatre Works! opened its doors in 2002 and since then, we have had a steady increase in families joining us year on year,” says Quin, who now welcomes more than 500 kids to more than 36 classes in four different locations every single week.
DUCTAC has a similar perspective. “With more and more families settling down in Dubai, we have a growing community that sees themselves staying here long term and are investing in their children’s future and development,” Evans reveals. “People come here bringing parts of their own diverse cultures, many of whom have a deep appreciation for the theatre and a strong desire to pass it on.”
He continues: “We have held some amazing family shows over the years. The generations of children who watched these shows and took acting classes years ago are now young people with a passion for theatre and fresh, new ideas which are shaping the city’s development.”
www.ductac.ae, www.kidstheatreworks.ae, www.dramascene.ae.
Three top drama classes
Dubai Performing Arts Academy
A brilliant “one-stop musical-shop” where kids can learn to develop the art of performing under the guidance of pop star siblings Johnny and Lisa Scott Lee, of Steps fame.
Miranda Davidson Studios
This highly regarded casting company offers three-week intensive acting courses for a strong foundation in film, theatre and TV performance for anyone interested in pursuing drama as a hobby or a career.
Making it up
Excellent drama classes from the improv experts using poetry, prose and games for kids aged five to seven (Act 1) and eight to 11 (Act 2) and a Julia Donaldson-themed storytelling and creative arts summer camp.
Find out more at www.courtyardplayhouse.com.