Mideast’s first permanent live entertainment show is designed to dazzle

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The aqua theater feels surprisingly intimate with its amphitheater-style design and luxurious seats. (Photo courtesy: La Perle by Dragone)
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The aqua theater feels surprisingly intimate with its amphitheater-style design and luxurious seats. (Photo courtesy: La Perle by Dragone)
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The excitement is palpable as you enter the aqua theater. (Photo courtesy: La Perle by Dragone)
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The narrative is loosely woven around Dubai and its pearling history. (Photo courtesy: La Perle by Dragone)
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The narrative is loosely woven around Dubai and its pearling history. (Photo courtesy: La Perle by Dragone)
Updated 20 November 2017
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Mideast’s first permanent live entertainment show is designed to dazzle

DUBAI: The hype was understandable. La Perle by Dragone, in typical Dubai fashion, promised to become a superlative in the world of live entertainment shows. Not only was Franco Dragone, a legend of the theater world and one of the pioneers of this genre of Cirque-du-Soleil style of entertainment, the creative force behind it, the theater itself was meant to be a work of art in itself.
So, does it live up to all the hype? I checked it out to find out for myself.
The excitement is palpable as you enter the aqua theater, which, in spite of being a 1,300-seater, feels surprisingly intimate with its amphitheater-style design and luxurious seats.
The performance starts in a mellow fashion with a lyrical song and a young girl – who is the lynchpin to the entire story — who discovers a pearl in the “ocean” that is represented by the pool in the center of the stage.
The narrative is loosely woven around Dubai and its pearling history, underpinned by the universal theme of good versus evil. The audience is reminded of the “Dubai” theme throughout the show — whether it is with graphics of construction and skyscrapers, or sequences with an international mix of “regular people just walking around on the city streets” to represent modern cosmopolitan Dubai.
At a more subliminal level, the “anything is possible” motto of the city is brought to life too, in a fun sequence where a performer planted among the audience goes on to perform some seriously amazing acrobatics.
But this is a show where the story really plays second fiddle to the setting; the stage and overall physical infrastructure is as much a star as the performers; fitting therefore that at the curtain call, all the various suspended set design elements too appear to take a bow alongside the artists.
The state-of-the-art technology employed is the real game-changer here, with laser lights, stellar sound, aerially-suspended props and 3-D projections all around the venue, including across the specially-designed walls, coming together to make this a truly immersive experience.
While the pace takes a while to pick up in the show, which runs for just under 90 minutes, it allows the audience to truly appreciate the level of engineering that has gone into its creation.
Not least of which is the “aqua stage,” with 2.7 million liters of water being used per show, not only in the circular pit in the middle of the stage — into which performers take multiple dives from up to 25-meter heights (there are quite a few gasps in the audience when that happens!) — but also in the form of gushing waterfalls and even rain. Hydraulic pumps render the stage water-free instantly too, so the action continues unabated.
In fact, there is always so much going on throughout the show, in different parts of the stage and up in the air, that it can be hard to keep up — your eyes dart from one thing to the other, trying to take it all in and just when you think you have, there is a surprise element lurking in the shadows that you notice from the corner of your eye.
That is probably why Franco Dragone had promised me, in an interview before the show opened, “every day is a different show — you will always have a feeling of not having seen everything.”

Take a leap تأهّبوا #LaPerleDXB #AlHabtoorCity #AlHabtoorGroup #Dragone #LiveEntertainment #MyDubai

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The performances are multi-disciplinary, with the 65-strong cast combining dance, acting, acrobatics (both on ground and aerially) contortionism, comedy – and, apparently, diving!
Some of the most awe-inspiring stunts, however, come from the aforementioned “audience member,”’ who does a nifty turn on a rotating wheel, and the cage bikers — there are up to five motorcyclists zipping around in a worryingly-small cage at one point — so that is some edge-of-the-seat thrill right there.
Without giving all the surprises away, suffice to say this sort of thing has to be seen to be believed. So, to come back to the question I started with — the short answer is yes, this fantastical sensory feast that takes the audience back in time, as well as propels them into the future, is worth the hype.
Even if the performances may not be the most extraordinary you have ever seen, this combination of incredible set design and technology with human artistry makes it definitely worth checking out.
La Perle by Dragone runs two shows, at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., from Tuesday to Friday and at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturdays at a purpose-built theater in Al Habtoor City, Dubai.
Movie theater-style snacks and drinks are available for sale. Photography and videos are allowed (without flash).
Ticket prices start at AED 400 ($109), going up to AED 1,600 for VIP tickets (which includes private entry, an exclusive lounge with F&B, complimentary valet parking, show program, and other perks).


‘Atlas of Beauty’: A Romanian photographer captures images of female beauty that defy every stereotype

Updated 16 July 2018
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‘Atlas of Beauty’: A Romanian photographer captures images of female beauty that defy every stereotype

  • Since 2013, Mihaela Noroc has photographed over 2,000 women in more than 50 countries, listening to their stories and learning about their lives.
  • For Noroc, beauty is diversity. She believes each one of the “shining stars” in her book radiates dignity, strength and beauty. 

JEDDAH: We live in a world where female beauty standards vary but are all socially and culturally constructed. The Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc traveled that world with her camera and backpack, photographing women in their everyday surroundings and listening to their stories. The result is the “Atlas of Beauty.”

Since 2013, Noroc has photographed over 2,000 women in more than 50 countries, listening to their stories and learning about their lives.

“I noticed that there is a lot of pressure on women to look and behave a certain way,” she told Arab News.

“In some environments, it’s the pressure to look attractive. In others, on the contrary, it’s the pressure to look modest. But every woman should be free to explore her own beauty without feeling any pressure from marketing campaigns, trends or social norms.”

For Noroc, beauty is diversity. She believes each one of the “shining stars” in her book radiates dignity, strength and beauty. 

During her five-year odyssey, there have been tremendous ups and downs. Yet, with each country, Noroc never failed to tell the story of the woman in her photographs. Some countries were deemed dangerous — but she traveled there anyway. 

“In Afghanistan, I traveled in a remote area called Wakhan Corridor. The fighting was very close, condemning this place to total isolation,” she said. “People were living like their ancestors lived hundreds of years ago, so photography was a miracle for them. They were incredibly happy to see themselves in photos and I was invited to every home to photograph each member of the family.” 

Visiting North Korea, Noroc was accompanied by local guides as she walked the streets to get a glimpse of women in their daily routines as if nothing was out of the norm. 

“There is a lot of pressure on women to look a certain way, so sometimes it’s a struggle to be yourself, to make yourself accepted as you are. But I hope this project will encourage more women and men to follow their own path, to explore their own beauty without feeling constrained.”

Traveling as a backpacker introduced Noroc to all kinds of environments. She has captured beauty in Brazilian favelas, in an Iranian mosque, on the Tibetan plateau, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, the Amazon rainforest, upscale neighborhoods of Paris, downtown New York and more. 

She focuses on photographing the environment around the women, and prefers to photograph their natural faces, without a lot of makeup.

Noroc also makes sure that she chats with her subjects while the photographs are being taken — she is an excellent conversationalist. 

Woman shopping at a market in Nampan, Myanmar.

“Many of the women I photograph are in front of a professional camera for the first time. This isn’t bad at all because they are more authentic. For even more authenticity, I always use natural light. Through my camera, I try to dive into their eyes and explore what’s inside.”

Each image is raw, colorful, delicate, intimate, striking and empowering. A Jordanian Bedouin grandmother sits with her children and grandchildren in the background, the woman’s deep wrinkles revealing her desert life living off the land.

Another image shows the resilience in the striking green eyes of a Syrian refugee with her two daughters in a camp in Greece. In Jodhpur, India, a young woman heads to the market in a vibrant fuchsia outfit and silver jewelry. 

“There is much love, beauty and compassion in the world and I see it with my own eyes. Yet a few sources of hate and intolerance can ruin all this. Many times, the victims of intolerance are women, and while on the road, I hear many heartbreaking stories,” she said.

Gauri, an Indian from Kolkata, India, sells splendid flower garlands at a Hindu temple. Female “bomberas” (firewomen) in Mexico City. Sisters Olga and Anya, street performers from Odessa, Ukraine. Eleonora, a ballerina from St. Petersburg, at one of the most prestigious dance schools in the world. A Mayan descendant in Guatemala donning a colorful dress and posing in her village. These are just some of the stories in the “Atlas of Beauty,” yet the journey is continuing since there are no limits to beauty in this world. 

“For me, beauty is diversity and it can teach us to be more tolerant. We are all very different, but through this project, I want to show that we are all part of the same family. We should create paths between us, not boundaries,” said Noroc.