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Bhaskar’s Arts Academy Commemorates 70th Anniversary

Bhaskar’s Arts Academy (BAA) is commemorating its 70th Anniversary with year-long festivities that will showcase its legacy.

Running from February to November, the programme features a diverse lineup of close to 20 captivating performances and exhibitions that will honour the Academy’s achievements, as well as give back to the industry through mentorships and collaborations.

“This celebration is about the Art; one that migrated here 70 years ago, found its roots and became a part of our heritage. It’s a milestone in our history and a journey that deserves to be celebrated,” said Mrs Santha Bhaskar, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Bhaskar’s Arts Academy.

The festivities include core productions Sangeetha Sapthathi, Butterfly Lovers and Marabu 3. Other activities fall under two umbrella categories: Footprints and Making it count, with aims of documenting BAA’s achievements in the past 70 years and providing opportunities and support to budding artists and art organisations respectively.

Sangeetha Sapthathi

Led by Music Director Dr Ghanavenothan Retnam, Sangeetha Sapthathi is a specially curated set of music pieces that encompasses the Academy’s contribution to the vibrant arts scene in Singapore since its establishment.

Each selection is significant in its own way in presenting an important moment in the institution’s journey thus far. Favourites of the founders, the Bhaskars, will also be featured. Sangeetha Sapthathi will be presented by the well-established Bhaskar’s Arts Orchestra.

Butterfly Lovers

Butterfly Lovers is a representative piece choreographed by Mrs Santha Bhaskar. Inspired by the Chinese film version of the tale, Mrs Bhasker brings the Bharatanatyam lens to a Chinese folktale through this production. This was also her first full length production here in Singapore.

Premiered in Singapore in 1958, the work was reimagined in 2021 by Mrs Bhaskar’s daughter, Meenakshy Bhaskar. This iteration is now commissioned to be restaged in June 2022 for Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre’s annual cultural fiesta, Cultural Extravaganza.

Marabu 3

Following the success of the first two chapters Marabu – The First Ripple and Marabu – The Forgotten Sentinels that were showcased in 2019 and 2021 respectively, Marabu 3 is the final act of the trilogy and part of Esplanade’s annual Kalaa Utsavam.

The Marabu trilogy brings to life pertinent moments of the Singapore Indian community and their shared history with other communities, highlighting the migration and cultural exchange between them. Through the eyes of a young dancer, this work will give audiences a glimpse into the Singapore Indian community post-1965

Footprints

Footprints will document and showcase BAA’s accomplishments in the past seven decades through a series of items which encapsulate the narratives of the Academy’s legacy, including an exhibition, a commemorative book and a performance.

Exhibition (Mid 2022)

BAA’s premises at Little India will house a three-month multi-media exhibition that will capture the essence of the seven decades of BAA and Nrityalaya Aesthetics Society (NAS) and their contributions to the arts scene in Singapore.

Visitors can also explore photos, videos, past programme booklets and various other paraphernalia on display.

 Commemorative Book 2022 (Planned release: Dec 2022)

The book will be a collation of articles, photos and other materials, representative of the 70 years of BAA’s legacy.

Marabu 3 (Nov 2022)

The Bharatanatyam performance will tell the story of Mrs Santha Bhaskar and her journey in Singapore.

Making it count

Making it count aims to give back to the industry and community by providing a platform and offering opportunities for budding artists to showcase their performing arts. Through the 70th Anniversary celebrations, BAA hopes to share its accumulated knowledge and provide support to independent artists or younger arts organisations as a pioneer in Indian dance in the following ways:

Collaborations with other arts organisations (Second half 2022)

BAA will be actively seeking out younger artists or organisations to work with and mentor, from conceptualisation to stage. These artists will have access to BAA’s expertise and knowledge as well as BAA’s artists who can play a supporting role.

Foster closer ties with overseas branches

BAA believes that the continuity of the art form lies in the hands of the next generation. Working together with their overseas branches in California, Arizona, and Freiburg, BAA aims to guide them through the transition of eventually becoming leaders in their own right, who can then lead future generations of artists.

Webinar

Following the success of the webinar “Bharatanatyam – Through the Generations” in 2020, BAA will host a webinar to once again bring artists together to share experiences that shape their thinking and develop staying-power. The date will be shared at a later time.

The Stage is Yours

Santha Bhaskar once said that to inspire the younger generations, it has to start at home, much like tasting food. Once they develop a taste for their heritage and culture, it will be easy to inspire the younger generation. In line with this, this set of performances offers NAS students the opportunity to start early and to cultivate a taste for performing, with the ultimate objective of grooming future generations of artists.

Since its establishment in 1952, BAA has celebrated seven decades of its legacy, made possible by the Academy’s adaptability and openness to change. Amidst a rapidly evolving arts landscape, the Academy looks to continue adapting as it shifts its focus to ‘transitions’ for the upcoming years.

As it celebrates the achievements from the past seven decades, BAA hopes to move towards sustainable development, with the long-term goal of future-proofing the organisation and its legacy. For one, BAA has plans to groom the younger generation of artists, such as through Choreography Labs, where the younger generation of choreographers will be mentored by senior choreographers.

With its experience in producing cross-cultural works, BAA also hopes to build cross-community bridges and enhance the uniquely Singaporean performing arts identity. In keeping up with evolving audience expectations, BAA will also explore working with partners from the technology sector for the presentation of their works.

“My hope is for BAA to continue embracing this little red dot’s diversity and multiculturalism without losing the values that have been passed down from generation to generation,” said Mrs Bhaskar. “I would like to see a younger generation of artists who have the courage to explore and experiment, who embrace technology so that they can connect globally and excite future generations. They should have a shared vision to foster a healthy environment where the artists in the region can thrive and the arts can be accessible to all.”

The 70th Anniversary celebrations will kick off on 25 February with Sangeetha Sapthathi at the Stamford Art Centre Black Box. Tickets are available for $25 at https://www.bhaskarsartsacademy.com/buy-ticket/. For more information on the upcoming programmes and ticketing details, please visit BAA’s Facebook page.

 

Event Details

Sangeetha Sapthathi
Date: Feb 25 & 26
Venue: Stamford Arts Centre
Black Box

Sangeetha Sapthathi – a celebration of 70 years through music! Kicking off the year-long festivities, Sangeetha Sapthathi showcases a vibrant collection of music pieces, meticulously selected to reflect Bhaskar’s Arts’ seven decades of presence in Singapore. Each piece significant in its own way, representing a noteworthy era or momentous event in the journey of the institution. Favourites of its founders, the Bhaskars, will be featured too!

Sangeetha Sapthathi will be presented by the well-established Bhaskar’s Arts Orchestra. Led by Music Director Dr Ghanavenothan Retnam, the orchestra comprises individual musicians of exceptional calibre. With Ampili Pillai’s and Arasakumari Nagaradjane’s harmonious vocals, fluidity of Dr Ghanavenothan Retnam’s flute, deft bow skills of TV Sajith, vainika TK Arunkumar’s flair and the precision beats of Nelluvai Ragesh, the cohesive finesse of the orchestra promises to enthral. The ensemble will be accompanied by BAA’s Youth Orchestra percussionists, Arul Kumaran Guna Shekaran on the ghatam and Jayagowtham Annadurai on the ganjira.
Tickets are priced at $25 and can be purchased from www.bhaskarsartsacademy.com/buy-ticket.

Butterfly Lovers
Date: Jun 3 – 5
Venue: Singapore Chinese
Cultural Centre

Butterfly Lovers premiered in Singapore in 1958 when it was choreographed by BAA’s Artistic Director Mrs Santha Bhaskar. She had just arrived from India two years earlier and was taken up by the multicultural atmosphere and the ease with which the various ethnic groups got along. She was inspired to stage the work after watching the Chinese film version of the tale, truly exemplifying that language is no barrier. With the multi-ethnic students she had, she gave audiences then a Bharatanatyam lens of the Chinese folktale. It was her first full length production here in Singapore.

BAA reimagined this work in Dec 2021, this time through the perspective of Mrs Bhaskar’s daughter, Meenakshy Bhaskar. A talented Bharatanatyam dancer, Meena brought her exposure to modern dance and classical Chinese dance to this 2021 edition of Butterfly Lovers. This iteration is now commissioned to be restaged in Jun 2022 for Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre’s annual cultural fiesta, Cultural Extravaganza.

Marabu 3
Date: Nov 2022
Venue: Esplanade Theatre
Studio

Following the success of the first two chapters Marabu – The First Ripple and Marabu – The Forgotten Sentinels, Marabu 3 is the final act of the trilogy and is part of Esplanade’s annual Kalaa Utsavam.

The Marabu (Tamil word meaning legacy) trilogy brings to life certain pages in the book of time, specifically those that capture pertinent moments of the Singapore Indian community and their shared history with other communities, highlighting the migration and cultural exchange that took place. Tracing the passage of the Indian community who have influenced and informed the socio-cultural graph of present- day Malaysia and Singapore, this work will give audiences a glimpse into the Singapore Indian community post-1965, through the eyes of a young dancer.

BHASKAREEYAM 2022
(ticketed)
Date and Venue:
* Jun 30 – Jul 3, Alliance
Francaise
* Jul 21 – Jul 24, Drama
Centre

BAA’s annual performing arts festival Bhaskareeyam curates artistically proficient as well as novel works, featuring local and international performing artists. It serves as a platform for artists to come together and celebrate the Arts. The four-day Festival has grown exponentially in artistic calibre and is now recognised as a focal point on the local cultural calendar.

Capitalising on the branding the Festival has amassed, 2022 will see an extended eight-day mega event, allowing more artists to showcase their creations. During the Festival, artists and cultural professionals who have made significant contributions to the performing arts scene will be honoured with various awards, motivating other artists to strive for excellence in their fields.

PRASAANTHAM (ticketed)

Malini Bhaskar
Date: Apr 23
Venue: Drama Centre

Sarenniya Ramathas
Date: Aug 6
Venue: Stamford Arts Centre
Black Box

Usha Anbalagan
Date: Sep 10
Venue: Stamford Arts Centre
Black Box

Inaugurated in 2021 as part of BAA/NAS annual Bhaskareeyam Festival, the Prasaantham series is named after BAA’s Artistic Director Santha Bhaskar. It offered a platform for upcoming artists to showcase their talents, and featured dance talents from various institutions then.

The series will be taking greater prominence in 2022 and will offer the young artists the opportunity to stage a separate full length thematic or repertoire performance. Three such performances are being planned featuring BAA Company dancers, who will be accompanied by a live orchestra.

THE STAGE IS YOURS (invited guests)

This set of performances offers NAS students the opportunity to be in the spotlight.

Bharatanatyam Arangetram
1. Dhakshenya Ardhithy
Dhinagaran
Date: Mar 12
Venue: Stamford Arts
Centre Black Box

2. Priyadarshini Nagarajah
Date: Nov 27
Venue: Victoria Theatre

Margam
1. Dayanita Rani
(Carnatic Vocal)
Date: Mar 6
Venue: NAS Black Box
2. Kaavya Ganeshan
(Bharatanatyam)
Date: Aug 14
Venue: NAS Black Box
3. Priyanka Sabu
(Bharatanatyam)
Date: Aug 21
Venue: NAS Black Box
4. Bala Saravanan Loganathan
(Bharatanatyam)
Date: Aug 27
Venue: NAS Black Box

Sangeetha Ankuram
Date: May 1 & 8
Venue: Our Tampines Hub

Bala Nrityam & Ilayar
Nadanam
Date: Jul 16 & 17
Venue: Alliance Francaise

An Arangetram is the debut solo full-length performance given by a student of any Indian traditional arts discipline. NAS has two Bharatanatyam Arangetrams lined up for 2022.

Students at NAS undergo a structured 14-year diploma programme, which culminates in the Margam or a performance showcase. In 2022, there will be four such
showcase performances, one in Carnatic Vocal and three in Bharatanatyam.

This biennial dance and music performance exam involves students at all levels of learning, even the Beginners. It provides students the precious opportunity to get into costume and present themselves on stage, helping them to develop stage confidence and presence.

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