An Afternoon Of Ballet At The Dubai Opera

Dubai is soulless, they said. Dubai has no culture, they said. Dubai is plastic, they said.

Enter scene: Dubai Opera.

It bemuses me somewhat that people still hold this view of this city – they’re the same people who say there’s nothing to do here but drink and sunbathe (spoiler: this is no longer true). Dubai is a young city – there are photos from the ’80s that show how not so long ago it only consisted of desert and a handful of buildings, so what’s been achieved here in a short space of time is nothing short of phenomenal. Sure, it’s by no means perfect, but what I like about the country’s leadership is that they’re putting a big emphasis on culture and the arts, and we’re starting to see the fruits of this.

One of the entrances to the Dubai Opera

One of the entrances to the Dubai Opera

From the minute the Dubai Opera was announced back in 2012 I was excited, even though I admittedly didn’t know if I’d still be around by the time it opened. So imagine my excitement when I happened to return to the city after being away for two years to find that it was just about to open.

I vowed I’d make it there before the end of the year, so when I heard there were two major ballet performances coming up, I knew I had to go. None of my friends wanted to come along, but I didn’t let that stop me; I went ahead and booked a ticket to see Giselle – a tragic love story. Yes, I like to torture myself.

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Hashtag worthy

I think this was the first time in a long while that I was *very* excited to have booked tickets other than ones of the airline variety. When the day arrived, I donned my crystallised ballet flats (I knew they’d come in handy one day) and headed to the opera house.

The Incredible Dubai Opera Building

First of all, I want to emphasise how incredible the space is. From the minute I walked in, I had a massive smile on my face. The design of the building is inspired by the traditional Arabic dhow, and this theme is carried through in the interiors, too.

I love the fact that 100 per cent of the facade is open and uses anti-reflective glass, something that was purposely done by Janus Rostock – the Dubai Opera’s design director – so that people who are outside can look in at what’s going on and the people on the inside can see the surroundings, which include the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building, in case you were wondering). The views are incredible:

The Champagne bar area with a view of the Burj Khalifa

The Champagne bar area with a view of the Burj Khalifa

The highlight of the atrium is the massive chandelier. In keeping with the boat and sea theme, there are 30,000 individually crafted glass pearls cascading down and across the building’s three floors. It’s definitely the main focal point and everyone wanted to have a picture taken in front of it. I mean, it is rather incredible:

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Always look up

Dubai Opera review

Selfie time!

I also want to highlight how lovely the staff are. Despite the fact that Dubai Opera only opened a few weeks previously and there are bound to be some teething problems, everyone I interacted with was helpful and friendly.

I arrived in good time and spent 30 minutes walking around the building and taking photos. It was then, as I reached the second floor, that I realised they also have a Champagne bar – hurrah! Sadly by this point it was too late to have a drink as it was time to start going into the auditorium, but I earmarked it for later.

Unfortunately, I was unable to take my SLR into the auditorium, as taking photos during the performance is not allowed (which I completely agree with), but what I will say is that it was so beautiful in there that I got a bit teary. And yes, while hormones may have had a lot to do with it (being a woman is a lot of fun), I also just found it to be a really lovely and moving space.

I’m not quite sure why I felt so overwhelmed by the experience, but I guess it may have a lot to do with being back in Dubai in general. Those who know me know that making the decision to come back here wasn’t easy, and sitting there, in that auditorium, I realised yet again that I’m exactly where I need to be right now. This was always my town – there’s no denying that! And I’m happy to be back in Dubai right now with all these amazing things that are going on.

My First Ballet

This was my first ballet performance, and, as such, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was quite surprised how drawn I was to going to the ballet, seeing as I had never sought it out before. Turns out it was the right decision. First of all, I was so incredibly impressed by the dancers’ bodies. Just to think of all the training they have to go through to be able to do the things they do is nothing short of incredible.

Giselle itself was breathtaking. In short, it is about a peasant girl who dies of a broken heart after discovering her lover is actually betrothed to another (rubbish men also existed in he 1840s, it seems). The Wilis, a group of supernatural women who dance men who betrayed their lovers to their deaths, then summon Giselle from her grave to seek revenge on love rat Albrecht.

Sadly I don’t know enough about technique to be able to comment on that, but what I will say is that the second act was my favourite. By this point Giselle has come back from the dead and is trying to stop the Wilis from dancing her ex lover to his own demise; ultimately, her love for him breaks through the chains of hatred and vengeance that control the supernatural women, Albrecht is released and Giselle returns to her grave to rest in peace.

I love the moral of this story – that ultimately forgiveness sets us free. The ending was so moving that I cried. Yes, I cried repeatedly throughout the afternoon. I’m turning into my mother.

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I love the moral of this story – that ultimately forgiveness sets us free. The ending was so moving that I cried. Yes, I cried repeatedly throughout the afternoon. I’m turning into my mother.

I’m a ballet convert. There’s something so graceful and beautiful about it. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more performances over the coming months.

A Toast To The Future

I had never been to the ballet before, let alone on my own. I was quite possibly the only person who was there solo, despite the fact it was the matinee performance, and yet, I never felt lonely. Being alone meant I was able to take in the full experience and enjoy everything, from the beautiful space to the performance. I enjoyed people watching. I enjoyed taking photos. I enjoyed soaking it all in.

Dubai Opera review

Me in my element

I was one of the last people to leave after the show. I did another round and took some more photos. I then headed back up to the Champagne bar, ordered a glass of bubbly and ended up chatting with the bartender. He took note of my camera and asked me if I wanted to have a picture taken with my drink. I answered “Why not?” He carefully took three photos while I posed with my glass. Fancying himself as a bit of a pro, he then studied the photos he had just taken in the camera’s viewfinder.

“You look really happy,” he said to me, smiling.

“That’s because I really am,” I replied.

And I wasn’t exaggerating.


Thoughts

Overall, I loved my experience at the Dubai Opera, but I thought I’d put together a few thoughts on what was good and what could be improved on:

The good:

  • The venue – incredible.
  • The staff are extremely friendly and if they don’t know the answer to your question they’ll find out for you.
  • The Champagne bar. There’s just something about having a glass of bubbly at the opera.

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The not-so-good:

  • When I went to collect my camera, they weren’t sure where it had been stored, so I had to wait for about 15 minutes for them to find it (turns out it was right behind the desk I was stood at).
  • Kids (and yes, some adults) making noise during the performance. It wasn’t unbearable, but it was there, and I think it should definitely be monitored better.
  • The queue for the toilet at the interval. It took 15 minutes and left me with no time to have something to eat and I was HUNGRY.
  • I was told that the food they sell is really expensive for what it is. As I didn’t eat anything, I cannot really comment on that, but the drink prices seemed to be in line with what you find in most places.

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Dubai opera review


Have you been to the Dubai Opera? How was your experience?


  • Shadesofyoga

    Awesome blog. I love to read all your work. This i would have say is your best work hands down. I look forward to your work.