ArtintheCity Uncovers the Magic of Dubomedy International Performing Arts Festival 2011
Today sees the start of a whirlwind of performing arts as part of Dubomedy International Performing Arts Festival 2011 (DIPAF). Running till the 3 December, the festival will bring together local and international talents across the arts, to put on shows which will amaze and delight at venues across Dubai. ArtintheCity spoke to Mina Liccione, co-director of Dubomedy and an award winning performer in her own right, about what we can expect to see over the next few days.
AITC: Firstly, can you tell me about more about Dubomedy Arts, the driving force behind the festival?
Mina Liccione: Dubomedy Arts was founded on none other than April 1, 2008. We are a collective of artists building a strong local comedy and urban arts community here in Dubai. Dubomedy Arts is co-directed by myself (a Broadway veteran and award-winning tap dancing comedienne and entertainer), and stand-up comic and producer, Ali Al Sayed. Our mission has been to create more performance opportunities for local artists, provide professional performing arts training and put on original productions around the region. We use comedy as a tool to bring people together.
We are the home to the first and only comedy school in the MENA region, the Dubomedy Sole Steppers (an award winning tap & body beats group); we run VIVArts Management, which represents top notch entertainers, and Improv Revolution, the UAE's first weekly comedy and variety show, ‘Monday Night Funnies’; we created ‘FUNNY GIRLS’- the first all female Stand Up Comedy Show in the Middle East; we have produced numerous comedy events and tours, including the annual Dubomedy International Performing Arts Festival (DIPAF), and the 'Keepin it Real Awards' and Clowns Who Care Volunteer Project; and finally we have been featured in numerous TV spots and are regularly booked as entertainment for many major events around the region!
AITC: Wow, so you keep busy then! How did Dubomedy first get started?
ML: I founded Dubomedy Arts in 2008 and Ali Al Sayed quickly jumped on board as co-director. What originally started out as a comedy course at Dubai Community Theatre and a female comedienne/tap dancer/choreographer spreading laughter, soon sprouted into a proper comedy and urban arts movement.
In the last 4 years we have been humbled time and time again by the wonderful group of home grown artists that have graduated from our classes and taken to the stage. We have initiated a series of platforms for these home grown artists in hopes of supporting and nurturing their growth. It is imperative that budding performers get more performance experience in order to grow and move to the next level. Our festival, DIPAF, hopes to do just that.
AITC: How do you think that the performing arts are perceived in the UAE? Is there a wide and engaged audience for the arts, and do they receive enough support – whether from the government or individuals?
ML: In the last four years I have literally watched the local arts scene grow and flourish in front of my eyes. Back in 2008 we launched the first comedy and variety arts night that featured all local talent, entitled ‘Monday Night Funnies’. It ran for a good four months, and the amount of performers writing to us saying that they wanted to perform as part of it grew dramatically during its run.
As for our classes, they are now filled to capacity each season and we even had a waiting list this term! The demand is quite high for the performing arts and more and more people want to get involved. Many people I have met used to perform, dance, make music as a kid but have lost touch. Others have always wanted to try comedy or improv or script writing but didn’t know how or where [to start]. Dubai, unlike New York, is more relaxed and since the entertainment business has really started to emerge, so have the number of fantastic opportunities that you may not get elsewhere. For example, in Dubai you could get a call to audition for a television series with not much experience; in New York that could take years and years of persistence.
Slowly but surely, more and more theatre groups have been presenting plays throughout the year and we were even able to do a full UAE comedy tour just before the summer, which consisted of 12 shows and over 20 home grown comics. It was really exciting! I think the performing arts are very well received here, and the mere fact that we have well over 200 artists performing in this year’s DIPAF is proof of this.
AITC: The Dubomedy International Performing Arts Festival (DIPAF) took place for the first time last year. What led you to set up the festival?
ML: I have never been one ‘type’ of artist. I have always been an interdisciplinary artist with huge passion for diverse forms. My partner, and now husband, Ali Al Sayed, is similar in that he was heavily involved with the music scene before we met. Our love of dance, music, comedy, theatre, poetry and rhythm was really the driving force. We wanted to allow people to venture out and experience many genres of art and hopefully get inspired to try something new or collaborate with other artists.
By centralising all of the performing arts, it allows us all to come together and work as a team rather than separate categories of artisans. The UAE has a very rich cultural flow and we wanted to celebrate that through the arts. This year we have incorporated more Arabic and Hindi/Urdu speaking events to best reflect the community. Next year we hope to include more communities.
AITC: What can we expect from DIPAF 2011– do you have any personal picks of what not to miss? And are there any new additions to this year’s festival?
ML: My goodness, we have everything from comedy, to dance, to theatre, to performance art, to Hindi/Urdu jam session, to poetry, to experimental theatre plays, to spoken word, to an Arabic Comedy show, to an original music concert of The Burj Steps, to Hollywood legend Mr Michael Winslow! Over 200 performers, 16 events, 4 days!
If you speak Arabic, the Arabic Comedy Show will be a real treat. If you are into theatre we have a local theatre night in the black box and an experimental matinee on the main DUCTAC stage the following day. In terms of a ‘must see’, Michael Winslow is not to be missed (2 December, 8pm @ DUCTAC, TICKETED EVENT), nor is the original music concert (3 December, 7pm@ The Burj Steps in Downtown Dubai, TICKETED EVENT). Michael’s vocal gymnastics, sound effects, beat boxing and impersonations are completely out of this world. It’s quite incredible! The closing music concert will also be lovely as The Burj will form the backdrop to ten local bands headlined by soul singing sensation Hamdan Al Abri.
AITC: The line up sounds great, ArtintheCity will definitely be checking out the acts! I see there is a mixture of local and international performers, which will include both emerging and more established acts. Given that Dubomedy Arts has a strong educational focus, will the professional performers, whether international or local, play an educational role for those just starting out in the business?
ML: Actually only two of the performers are not locally based! Michael Winslow of the USA and Mohamed Salem of Egypt are headliners flying in. Locally based established acts include Hamdan Al Abri, Dubai Drama Group, Star Too, Sach Holden, Hind Shoufani, Nigel Holt, Youth Theatre Works, Frank Dulligan, Resuscitation Theatre, Jamil Abu Wardeh, Bahareh Amidi, Satwa Sessions, Jamal Iqbal and many, many more! Too many to begin to list!
Yes, we will also have a series of free workshops to encourage education. I believe that education is the cornerstone to anything sustainable and our training school and community is the root of all that we do. We purposely wanted there to be a wide variety of levels of experience. Most festivals cater to professionals, but here the arts community is so young and it is important to also offer the amateurs a chance for some of the shows, in order to give them more experience and exposure. Each artist is just as important as the next - it’s really their festival.
AITC: Can you tell me a bit more about the workshops going on at the festival – are these open to everybody?
ML: Yes, the workshops are open to all and free. We will also have a Clowns Who Care (CWC) event in which Michael Winslow, along with the CWC Project, will perform a very unique show for children with special needs and their families. As part of the event we will perform, as well as lead exercises for the children ranging in clowning, dance and music.
Find out more about DIPAF 2011 and the full schedule of events at www.dipaf.com.