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Khalifa confers Independence Order on world renown director Franco Dragone

WAM Abu Dhabi, 11 March 2013 (WAM) — President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has conferred the Independence Order of first grade on Franco Dragone, the world famous artistic director, in recognition of his magnificent and distinguished contributions to the advancement and promotion of international arts and theatre.

His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, presented the honour to Mr. Dragone when he welcomed him at Al Bahr Palace today.

The honour-award giving ceremony was attended by H.H. Sheikh Saeed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Ruler s Representative, H.H. Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, H.H Lt.General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, H.H. Sheikh Omar bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Public Works , and a number of Sheikhs and senior officials.

On the 250th anniversary of the Qasr Al Hosn, Franco Dragone has commissioned a unique show (Story of a Fort, Legacy of a Nation) that brings to life the history and traditions of the Emirati people.

Sheikh Mohamed congratulated Mr. Dragone for being awarded the order and praised the show which was staged during the Qasr Al Hosn Festival in Abu Dhabi from 28 February to 9 March.

He said the show had promoted a noble message and rich contents through a deep artistic, aesthetic and historic vision that retold important chapters of the region’s history.

Sheikh Mohamed added that show had infused diverse genres of culture and traditions in a contemporary performance which took the audience in a rich cultural and artistic journey of a long history of struggle, patience and challenges to the people of the region until the birth of a modern state, inspired by the strong will of the fathers and forefathers who transformed this part of the world into a bright reality that draw attention of the world.

Sheikh Mohammed paid tribute to Mr. Dragone and his crew which had added further cultural dimensions and refine artistic touches to the Qasr Al Hosn festivities.

Artistic shows, Sheikh Mohamed noted, play a vital cultural role in enlightening present and future generations about lives of great leaders, signature historic events and civilisational achievements.

Sheikh Mohammed exchanged cordial talks with Mr. Dragone, who in turn, expressed his deep appreciation and pride for the honour the President awarded him.

He said the kind gesture demonstrates the depth of originality and indigenous traditions of the people of the region. Such tribute, he added, provides a stimulate for more creativity and excellence. He said he hoped he would live up to this trust and responsibility.

He affirmed that this recognition reflects a valuable initiative on the part of the President and Sheikh Mohamed towards one important stream of the cultural works.

He described the historic moment as a bright spot in the ”history of our artistic life.” Mr. Dragone paid special thanks to the Festival organizing committee and the Emirati team he worked with him and who had played a critical role in producing and directing the show in this magnificent style.

The team, he noted, had provided him with valuable information about the history of the region, lifestyles, traditions, customs, national costumes and attires.

The show, he noted, would not have elicited such good response and welcome among the audience without the unequivocal support by the Emirati team.

He said that would carry a lot of good and memorable impressions and memories about the UAE and its diverse and rich heritage and values.

Before planning and creating the work, he added, he had read much about the history, culture and heritage of the UAE and interacted and communicated with the local community to get close insight into its daily life so as to present a true image of the culture, history, traditions and social and economic impact of the desert environment in the people of the UAE and region at large.

He said the show, specially composed for the festival and undoubtedly the first of its kind in the Middle East, would open up channels of communications between the east and west for more creative performances. The UAE, he said, would be the source of his inspiration of his future outstanding creations.

Franco Dragone was immersed into the world of entertainment at an early age and had been involved with many cultural movements with a social element before becoming the artistic director of the Cirque du Soleil, whose first ten productions bore his signature. Since 2000, he has returned to La Louvi?re where he leads his own company and is more focused than ever on creating visionary performing arts that combine the virtuosity of artistic prowess, creative diversity and the mastery of technological innovation as a theatrical language.

Born in Italy, he immigrated to Belgium with his parents at the end of the 1950s and ended up in La Louvi?re. Like so many others at the time, his father had come looking for work in the Walloon coal mines. Franco himself was initiated in the art of the show at an early age. He became involved, both as an actor and a director, in many cultural movements with social overtones that were troubling Europe in the wake of May 1968.

Having trained at the school of popular theatre, then at Jean Louvet’s Proletarian Theatre and the Commedia dell’Arte, the young Franco enrolled at the Mons Conservatory and in Gaulier’s course in Paris, mastering courses all over Europe.

In 1982 he left Belgium for Quebec where he ran workshops in theatrical improvisation before teaching at the National Circus School of Montreal. His original and innovative style attracted the critics’ attention, particularly that of Guy Lalibert?, who had just founded what would soon become the one and only Cirque du Soleil. This would be Franco Dragone’s crowning moment.

Between 1985 and 1999 he put his name to ten Cirque du Soleil productions, some of which are still being performed around the world with the same degree of success.

In 2000, Franco Dragone, the eternal traveller, settled once more in Belgium to lay the foundations for a project close to his heart: to create his own company in the working class and devastated town that witnessed him grow up and to participate in the economic and cultural development of his adopted region. It was the birth of Franco Dragone Entertainment Group, whose aim from the outset was to “create and perform the most innovative shows on earth”.

It was the start of a new era for Franco Dragone. Artist and designer through and through, he also became an entrepreneur responsible for a company which presented A New Day, with C?line Dion, followed by R?ve in Las Vegas, The House of Dancing Water in Macao and soon a series of extraordinary shows produced in several cities in China over the next ten years that Franco hopes “will open the door for a new cultural encounter between the East and the West”.

WAM/TF