Bhaskar’s Arts Academy’s (BAA) latest production, Vinayaka, sees the troupe collaborating with Sasana Budaya Art Troupe (Indonesia) and Singa Nglaras Gamelan Ensemble (Singapore) as part of their Traditional Arts in the Region series. To better understand BAA’s new direction towards cross-cultural collaboration, I arranged an email interview with Mrs Santha Bhaskar, artistic director of BAA .
What made BAA decide to launch the Traditional Arts in the Region series?
In 1990 I was awarded a scholarship to study Thai culture at Chulalongkorn University. I think my most profound experience was the collaboration among the delegates of that ASEAN Exchange programme. The sharing of cultures from the representatives made me realise how old and how much of a treasure our traditions are.
At the end of the course, we were expected to create an item to signify the unity of ASEAN in dance. Singapore is in a very unique situation because of its cosmopolitan nature and its multi-cultural tradition. My representation, being an Indian dancer, was a question that I had to answer to many and to myself. I knew I had to make my contribution “Singapore” in nature. It was difficult initially but in the end I created the evolution of man (through the avathars of Vishnu), finishing with the struggle to attain ultimate intelligence and symbolised this with Buddha (the enlightened one).
Again and again I have choreographed ASEAN epics such as Ramayana, Manohra and Vinayaka. With each production, BAA’s connection to the ASEAN region became stronger and that led to the launch of the series.
Earlier this year, BAA performed in Bangkok for the ASEAN plus Ramayana Festival. Has BAA been very involved in cultural events organised by ASEAN? If so, how has such encounters influenced the artistic practice of BAA?
In addition to my early encounter in 1990, many more ASEAN Ramayana performances have been staged in this region. BAA has been involved in several of them starting with the Ramayana Festival in Angkor Wat, Cambodia in 1994. Subsequently there were several others in Myanmar, India and Thailand. My daughter, Meenakshy Bhaskar, also spent more than a year touring the region with Realizing Rama — a production that brought together artistes from all around the region. These events did influence BAA to create an awareness of ASEAN traditional arts and culture, and foster collaborations with our neighbouring countries.
I noticed that the Southeast Asian Studies department at the National University of Singapore is listed as one of your collaborators. What is their role in this production?
Department of South east Asian Studies’ Gamelan ensemble is collaborating with BAA’S musicians to play joint compositions of Carnatic and Javanese music. It is a definitely a happy marriage of two happy partners.
Stay tuned for an upcoming interview conducted with the choreographers and musical directors of Vinayaka about the rehearsal process.
16 October 2016 (Sunday)
SOTA Drama Theatre
$25 & $30
Tickets: BAA website or firstname.lastname@example.org