Dubai's new party people

Anyone can host a party, but professionals have fingers on pulses


Gone are the days when putting on a party meant opening the bar and letting everyone know the time and place. Today’s Dubai socialite expects much more – be it live art sessions, wheeling out the fire performers or putting harpists in glass bubbles. Over the last year, party planners have really been bringing out their A-game. One hot trend of late has been showcasing hip hop and street culture, with live art installations – often referred to as graffiti walls – and breakin‘ (that’s break dancing, for the uninitiated) increasingly popping up at once stuffy corporate parties around the city, memorably at events such as Puma’s Creative Factory party, Louis Vuitton’s Trophy party and Carolina Herrera’s perfume launch.

Dan Bolton, senior entertainment booker at local talent agency Bareface argues these party tricks are not necessarily new, but are en vogue once again now the dust has settled since the global financial crisis. ‘Things like graffiti artists and acrobats have always been in town, but we’re seeing them more as entertainment becomes affordable again,’ he says. ‘I think that recently clients have become a little more savvy about international options that they want to recreate here, using some local performers.’

But from the perspective of members of Dubai’s hip hop community, who are increasingly being used as event showpieces, it’s a double-edged sword. ‘The positive is that talented members of our community; dancers, poets, artists and DJs, have managed to get paid to do what they love and exposure for our talent,’ says James De Valera, aka Dubai-based DJ Lobito, also a representative of Afrika Bambaataa’s Universal Zulu Nation. But it has also meant the community is frequently ripped-off by unscrupulous middle men, or ‘hip hopportunists’ as De Valera calls them. That said, he does believe the trend has greater longevity than some others. ‘The more circus-type attractions are fads that last a short while, but street art, spoken word and breakin' are becoming permanent.’

Musical performances with a difference are also becoming familiar party centrepieces, as seen at events recently thrown by events and public relations company We Like Custard, which brought together American Jazz and traditional Emirati bands for a live performance, drawing an audience of 500. ‘I think the fact it was something different brought people to it. They’d never heard anything like it: a qanoon played next to a saxophone, double bass, drums…’ explains Nicola Holmes, the company’s director. Holmes has worked on numerous launches, corporate and consumer events, including a networking night where she put a harpist in an inflatable bubble in the middle of the room, and Custard’s own launch party, held in an Al Quoz warehouse – an area she believes, along with private villas, is becoming one of the hottest places to hold parties in the city. ‘They’ve got that undiscovered feel,’ she says, adding that on many occasions it works best to have a blank canvas space first. However, there are certain things, though big in other countries, that Holmes believes the market here isn’t ready for yet. ‘You couldn’t enforce a strict fancy dress party here, it wouldn’t work,’ she says, though explains parties with a theme running through drinks, décor, music and food work well. ‘I think most people here feel they’re getting pulled out of their comfort zone with fancy dress.’

Fortunately, props solve this problem. ‘If you give people hats and things to play with, they get into it. That’s when having things like photobooths work,’ she explains – referring to another trend, sparked by As for the future, Holmes hopes to see more global trends here, including more pop-up concepts, the latter an impermanent space which can act as anything from restaurants to fashion stores – as seen recently with the Nadine Kanso jewellery store in Cuadro in DIFC. ‘It’s huge in London, and people flock to them,’ she says. But Holmes is tight-lipped about exactly what we can expect from her in the future. We’re almost annoyed that we’re not let in on the secret, but then, perhaps the element of surprise is the biggest part of these raging party crazes.

Hold your own extra stylish party

Hire a professional DJ.
Make it a night to remember by hiring one of the city’s best spinners, such as Time Out Dubai Nightlife Award-winning Best Local DJ Bliss. Contact

Enlist fire-breathers, magicians and models.
Local talent agency Bareface can provide everything from fire performers to stilt walkers to walkabout interactive entertainers. Contact

Pap people.
If you’re going to all this effort to create an unforgettable party, the last thing you want is amateur snaps doing it a disservice. Experienced Dubai-based photographer Oliver Doran will lend his service for a price. Contact him on 044549701,

Offer la crème de la Canapés.
For a party for around 100 people, put on a variety of cuisines from Japanese sushi to Arabic mezze with the gourmet catering department at Galeries Lafayette. Call 04 339 9933 and ask for Gourmet Lafayette for tailored menus and quotes.

Consider their journey home.
Presumably you like the people you’ve invited, so don’t let them drink and drive. Book a Saferdriver (04 268 8797) who’ll take them home across the UAE in their own car when the night is over. Minimum rate is Dhs120 (within Dubai).

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