Dance, architecture and motion-capture create performance magic in world premiere performances of Kuwait Calling

Kuwait Calling is a trailblazing collaboration between the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Cultural Centre (JACC), a cultural powerhouse in the Arabian Gulf region, and London-based 59 Productions’ team of Tony and Olivier Award-winning creatives (Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, David Bowie is, War Horse), featuring dancers from Rambert, one of the UK’s leading contemporary dance companies.

From 10-14 March 2020, the site-specific piece, inspired by Kuwait’s origin story, will reimagine the possibilities of live performance – combining dance and music with live motion-capture and architectural-scale projection mapping.

Working at the nexus between technology and art, 59 Productions has nearly two decades of expertise, conceiving and delivering complex stage and live events that unite world-class creatives in unexpected ways. More recently, the Company has created a raft of spectacular public artworks for some of the world’s most iconic buildings including the Sydney Opera House, UN Headquarters, Washington Monument and Guggenheim, Bilbao. Now, 59’s creative team turn their attention to the task of transforming JACC’s shimmering titanium facade into a unique architectural-scale projection environment for live performance.

In a dramatic dialogue between the physical body and cutting-edge technology, 12 dancers from Rambert together with five Kuwaiti dancers will perform a new work that unites contemporary and traditional dance choreographed by Rambert’s Artistic Director, Benoit Swan-Pouffer. Dancers will be fitted with motion-capture suits, and as the narrative progresses, the live-data captured from the suits will enable the dancers to control the animated projections in real time.

Just as the choreography embraces modernity and tradition, an original musical score created by critically-acclaimed British and Kuwaiti composers, Paul Clark, Dr. Ahmad Al Salhi and Yousif Yaseen, will uniquely combine Western composition with live Arabic instrumentation including rababa, tabla, oud, violin and qunan, to an evocative, transporting effect.

Kuwait Calling is the latest production forged as part of a pioneering three-year creative partnership between JACC and 59 Productions. Since 2017, the two organisations have worked together to build a programme of artistically ambitious Arabic-language productions with both local and regionally relevant themes and an increasingly global outlook. Today, JACC boasts a multidisciplinary programme that is experimental, inclusive and utterly unique in the region.

Kuwait Calling also continues the innovative artistic collaboration between 59 Productions and Rambert, following on from the acclaimed production of Invisible Cities, inspired by Italo Calvino’s renowned novel, which opened at Manchester International Festival 2019, and was also co-commissioned by the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Cultural Centre and other international partners including Brisbane Festival and Sadler’s Wells in London. An Arabic-language adaptation of Invisible Cities will open at JACC in September 2020.

Co-conceived by 59 Productions’ founder Leo Warner, JACC’s Director Faisal Khajah and Head of Creative Production Reham Alsamerai, Kuwait Calling is the first production at JACC specifically designed to be presented both regionally and internationally. Whilst the production will receive its world premiere in Kuwait, the creative team have designed-in the repurposing of the show to facilitate future performances in radically diverse spaces, both indoor and out. 59 Productions and JACC are in discussion with a number of promoters and partners from across the globe and look forward to announcing details of further presentations of this ambitious production beyond the region in the coming months.

Leo Warner, Director and Founder of 59 Productions, said: Kuwait Calling is a celebration of internationalism, collaboration and pioneering artistic and technical exploration that rarely happens on this scale, anywhere in the world. Born out of long-standing partnerships – both between JACC and 59 Productions, and 59 Productions and Rambert –Kuwait Calling is testament to the vast theatrical and creative possibilities made real through conversation, passion and vision. Rooted in the story of the origins of Kuwait and conceived for JACC’s spectacular courtyard, we look forward to sharing this singular ambitious work with the widest possible audience both in the region and beyond.

Reham Alsamerai, Head of Creative Production at Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Cultural Centre, said: Kuwait Calling is the culmination of a three-year creative relationship with 59 Productions. Together we have successfully delivered numerous proscenium-based productions that have honoured very Kuwaiti stories within undeniably international theatrical frameworks. Kuwait Calling takes this relationship out into the open-air for the first time, taking its inspiration from the story of Kuwait itself, in a new language that combines technical prowess, musical and choreographic ingenuity and showcases the relationships between nature and music, music and history, history and architecture, Kuwait and the world”.

Benoit Swan Pouffer, Artistic Director of Rambert, said: “I am excited about this new creation with JACC and 59 Productions, which I believe brings together artistic practices from different cultures, and I'm looking forward to being inspired by the local traditional art and dance. The performance is a tribute to the rich history of Kuwait, and it will be a visceral spectacle with incredible visuals. Working on Invisible Cities with 59 Productions last year gave us a solid ground to collaborate, and I look forward to developing this relationship further”.

Notes to Editors’

59 Productions is the multi award-winning company of artists, architects, designers and technologists behind the video design of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the design and creative direction of the record-breaking David Bowie is exhibition, and the projection and video design of the globe-trotting National Theatre smash hit War Horse, which has reached audiences of more than 7 million people in 11 countries to date. The company received an Olivier Award in 2018 and a Tony Award in 2015 for the video design of Christopher Wheeldon’s celebrated stage adaptation of An American in Paris which played in the West End and on Broadway.

Created in 2006 and led by directors Leo Warner, Mark Grimmer, Lysander Ashton, Richard Slaney and Anna Jameson, 59 Productions offers world-leading expertise in design for stage and live events. They are the go-to team for generating creative and technical ideas to realise ambitious artistic projects across a range of disciplines: from architectural projection-mapping to exhibition design, VR experiences to events, theatrical design to technical consultancy.

59 Productions work at the nexus between technology and art, creating spectacular public artworks that combine architectural projection-mapping with powerful narrative, for some of the world’s most iconic buildings. Past projects include the creation of projection-mapping artworks for the Sydney Opera House, the Barbican’s Beech Street tunnel, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian Art in Washington, the Washington Monument and the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Alongside conceiving and producing its own theatrical work, most recently the world premiere of Invisible Cities – described by the Daily Telegraph as “Brunel meets Dante in this spellbinding spectacle” – at Manchester International Festival 2019, 59 Productions is also at the forefront of VR creation in the UK and won two awards at the 2018 Raindance Film Festival for Nothing to be Written, a VR experience created for the BBC Proms, Edinburgh International Festival and 14-18 NOW; and Grenfell: Our Home, a collaboration with Parable Pictures and Channel 4.

Twitter:           @59productions
Instagram:      @59_productions

The Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Cultural Centre (JACC) is located in the heart of Kuwait City, encompassing a vast area of more than 236,000 square meters. It demonstrates the cultural aspirations of Kuwait by hosting, producing and presenting various types of local, regional and international artistic and cultural events. The project is a direct reflection of the rich cultural heritage of the State of Kuwait, which has always been open to the international community, extending its reach to world cultures and arts.

JACC opened its doors on October 31, 2016, in the presence of His Highness the Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, thus breathing new life into the field of arts and culture in Kuwait, providing a world-class arts infrastructure for its future. It has grown from strength to strength in a very short time, quickly becoming a leader in the region in both presenting and producing content that is diverse, engaging, pioneering and entertaining.

The Centre is made up of four buildings: Theatre Building, Music Building, Conference Centre and Library. Clad in titanium outer shells and adorned with geometric motifs inspired by Islamic art and architecture, they appear like jewels shining in the Kuwaiti landscape in their unique and award-winning architectural design.

JACC provides spaces for dialogue and artistic expression, where skills and knowledge can be showcased and shared, and where younger voices have a platform for educational and cultural exchange; moreover, it functions as an influential entertainment and cultural powerhouse and productive space for the region.

Kuwait’s cultural identity has historically been rooted in a modern, avant-garde and experimental tradition. JACC aims to revive and strengthen this identity by establishing itself as the model space for all cultural events and activities, on national, regional and international levels. To date, JACC has served as a platform to myriad productions include in-house creations such as Memoirs of a Sailor, Black and White and Tonight! The 80’s, the latter of which toured in GCC countries to outstanding reviews. JACC has also presented various global titles including Sting, Herbie Hancock and Yanni as well as international shows such as Cats, The Illusionists, Thriller, Circus 1903 and Teatro alla Scala’s Giselle.

Apart from being the home of its very own JACC Orchestra and JACC Music School, JACC has hosted many international orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Prague Philharmonic, Bucharest Symphony Orchestra and Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra.

Rambert is one of the world’s leading contemporary dance companies, creating distinctive, exciting work in London and touring it throughout the UK and around the world. Rambert is the longest established British dance company, with a 94-year history of creating new dance. It has been a home for the great modern choreographers of the 20th century, including Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Glen Tetley, and Merce Cunningham.

Led by Artistic Director Benoit Swan Pouffer and Chief Executive / Executive Producer Helen Shute, Rambert today is a global brand synonymous with the best in contemporary dance. Its permanent company of dancers is possibly the world’s most diverse ensemble, and is complemented by the outstanding early-career dancers of its new ensemble Rambert2. Current repertoire and recent creations include works by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Ben Duke, Sharon Eyal, Wayne McGregor, Andrea Miller, Marion Motin, Hofesh Shechter and Jermaine Spivey.

Rambert’s home is a landmark building in the heart of London’s cultural quarter on the South Bank, and its performance programme is complemented by extensive education, participation and community-based work. Rambert’s vision is to bring work that resonates in the 21st century into the heart of communities at home and around the world.

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