Day 13

30 Days Of Art With NAC: A call to be brave

To inspire and uplift readers as the country emerges from the Covid-19 circuit breaker, The Straits Times, supported by the National Arts Council as part of the #SGCultureAnywhere campaign, has commissioned 30 works by local writers and artists on the pandemic and what it will be like when all this is over

Bhaskar's Arts Academy perform Prati Sandhi (Reunion), which is inspired by the classic Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, for the National Arts Council and The Straits Times' 30 Days Of Art series.
Dancers (from left) Priyadarshini Nagarajah, Davinya Ramathas and Sarenniya Ramathas perform Prati Sandhi (Reunion), which is inspired by the classic Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita.
Dancers (from left) Priyadarshini Nagarajah, Davinya Ramathas and Sarenniya Ramathas perform Prati Sandhi (Reunion), which is inspired by the classic Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita.PHOTO: BHASKAR ARTS ACADEMY

Mrs Santha Bhaskar confesses to feeling "sad and depressed" during what she characterises as "the miserable state of locked down circuit breaker".

But the 80-year-old declares determinedly: "My dance is not sad or depressed."

The circuit breaker period has brought home to her the value of live performance, says the Cultural Medallion recipient and artistic director of multidisciplinary performing arts group, Bhaskar's Arts Academy.

"I appreciate the freedom that we had before - the theatre, live audience, the communication of the soul of the dance to the audience whom we consider as gods."

When approached to take part in the National Arts Council and The Straits Times' 30 Days Of Art series, she professes that she was "a little bit scared" and spent a sleepless night thinking about the project. She was inspired by the classic Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, to create Prati Sandhi (Reunion): "The verses came alive in front of me: 'Be brave and detached from all your senses and run to the battlefield, think positive and fight, you will win the war.'"

She had to overcome some obstacles to create a dance that would be seen via video instead of in person: "Digital art may sound exciting, but I do not find any life in it." She adds that the "soul" of dance lies in the live performance, with an audience.

The speed of the project from commission to final product also gave her pause for thought: "For a stage production I will have about a year to get 'pregnant' and to nourish the 'baby' with love and care. This situation is so different that I am in doubt whether I am compromising my Art because of the need."

It has also challenged Mrs Bhaskar to rethink her art form: "Planning a virtual programme feels more like directing a movie instead of choreographing."

The pandemic has shaken her loose from her normal performance and creative routine, she admits: "I was attached to this circle which I was so comfortable in and now I realise that detachment is necessary. I need to stand alone, away from this circle and look at it. All I see is emptiness. A void deck."

This new work is a gift to the community, she says: "This is a reflection of the present situation that we are experiencing now as a community. I hope and pray that soon we will be able to physically see our audience face to face. I also encourage readers and viewers to be brave in all situations."

• Watch Mrs Santha Bhaskar's work, Prati Sandhi, at str.sg/30Days.

• For more local digital arts offerings, go to a-list.sg to appreciate #SGCultureAnywhere

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2020, with the headline '30 Days Of Art With NAC: A call to be brave'. Print Edition | Subscribe