Sol: I saw a doctor wearing a mask filled with sweet smelling flowers to keep out the miasma.
Sol: Masks ought to keep out the miasma of fear, instead.
Roy: There are many fear mongers.
Sol: I wish they would monger fish, instead.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
After 14 weeks of working from home, on the 9th of July, I visited Mrs. Bhaskar’s rehearsal studio where she was choreographing a new work for Cloud based on her feelings towards the lock down. As I entered the dance space, mask on, appropriate social distancing in effect, I caught the eyes of the artist, in her 80s, smiling broadly at me, beckoning me to come and sit by her.
It was the first time in a long time that I was in the physical presence of live performance and the impact of that absence meant 60-seconds into the dance, I choked up. Mrs. Bhaskar’s raw feelings about the disappearance of her audience as a result of the lock down were unfiltered. Text she had written for the dance states plainly, “Where are they, where are they?” The lock down also meant that Bhaskar’s Arts Academy had to continue their dance classes with students over Zoom. I recalled in her text her disgust towards the screen. As the rehearsal wound up I found that I was filled with fresh spirit and discovered some reasons why.
1. Here was a woman in her 80s creating something of the moment with urgency and grace.
2. Her three female dancers exuded confidence and joy, empowered by the presence of their beloved teacher.
3. And finally, the sheer lucidity of Mrs. Bhaskar’s creation made manifest in her dancers' bodies expressing vivid emotional pain and fear of the unknown yet strong and resolute in its surrender to time and to the Divine.
Millie: Justus, are we on the brink of disaster?
Justus: I will need to be in quarantine for 40 days and then I will come back.
Millie: 40 days is excessive.
Justus: It’s symbolic. Quarantine, from Latin quaranta. 40 is the numeric symbol for purification.
Millie: Like the 40-day flood in the book of Genesis that washed away every human who defiled the earth, which was every human, to purify the earth. Like that?
Justus: In 40 days I will come back to you purer than I have been.
Artist KIRSTEN TAN
In these unusual days, I have been dreaming
that I’m losing my Dance and myself in the wilderness of TIME (KAALA). Time appears in cycles; and each cycle had pierced my heart with different emotions.
By the nature of our time, the aesthetics of performance and the essence of my art “RASA” will be lost. Its philosophical exegesis is challenged by the human ability to absorb virtually.
Kaala is time, time is like a cycle, it goes round, a circle. There is no end; its infinite.
by Santha Bhaskar
I romance with my dance
Experience pathos that I am unable to witness
The laughter of my audience
Where are they? Where are they?
Rage increases the more distant they are from me
Enough of this disgust towards the screen
Wearing a mask to hide my fear from the "unknown"
Courage to explore the possibilities to connect
Mesmerised by the mysterious
Wonders of this world
If I surrender to the time "Kaala"
Will the nature of my dance become divine?
To transcend the individual self
To project my skill and inspired creativity
When the door has finally opened
The dim light now becomes bright
has become synonymous with unique choreographies and concepts over the years. Her curatorial interests lie in exploration and engagement. And with her commitment to the sophistication of traditional Indian dance and her innovative spirit of cross-cultural explorations, her works speak for themselves and continue to raise the bar and push the boundaries.
She has staged numerous productions as part of the Academy’s annual season. Some notable works include her first full-length dance drama, the Chinese folk tale Butterfly Lovers (1958) and the Thai mythological story Manohra (1996 & 2018), which infused movements and elements from Chinese and Thai dance respectively. Her Parinaamam (1993), which was based on the local poem “Sita’s Complaint”, gave audiences a new perspective on the traditional Ramayana. Her works Anweshana – The Search for Nalanda (2011) and 28 (2019) won Production of the Year at the Tan Ean Kiam Arts Awards in the respective years.
More recently, she created Rasa & Dhwani (2003), a repertoire inspired by local poems in different languages; People Get Connected (2006), which traced human communication through the ages; Vibrations (2007), an experimental collaboration of dance, light and dramatics; CHAKRA (2012), the first traditional Indian dance production to incorporate sand art; XPressions (2013), a work that pushed boundaries in terms of orchestration and use of space; Sambhavna (2016) and Sambhavna 2.0 (2017), works that brought quantum physics to life; as well as 28 (2019), which was inspired by Da Vinci’s The Vitruvian Man and incorporated mathematical patterns such as the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci sequence. Her adventurous nature has also given rise to Pappadum (2006), a light-hearted dance drama with hip-hop dance group NUS Dance Blast! and Amazing Race (2012), a curious collaboration with local comedian Kumar.
Santha Bhaskar was conferred the Cultural Medallion award in 1990, the highest honour accorded to Arts practitioners in Singapore. In 2016 she was also awarded the Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Star) for her continued dedication.