Creating ripples with poem and music

Creating ripples with poem and music
The classical Indian dance performance will be staged at the Esplanade Theatre Studio on 27 October 2013.

SINGAPORE - Listen to the pulse of poetry and the metre of music intertwine this Sunday at Bhaskar's Arts Academy's Rasa & Dhwani - Poetry In Union at the Esplanade Theatre Studio.

Artistic director of the Academy Santha Bhaskar says: "Poetry is very much like music. When I read poetry, I think about what it would sound like if someone were singing it. Poetry is not just about reading and understanding, but also musicality and the rhythm."

The 73-year-old has created an hour-long classical Indian dance performance in which verses by 4th- century Sanskrit poet Kalidasa and local Malay literary pioneer Abdul Ghani Hamid will be sung to Carnatic music by a live orchestra.

Kalidasa is one of the most prolific poets in the Sanskrit language, and Bhaskar, a Cultural Medallion recipient, says: "He uses very simple Sanskrit, but his poetry is very musical."

She also wants to introduce his poetry to a wider audience: "Not many people know about Indian literature in Singapore, and I wanted to bring about this awareness."

She chose to pair Sanskrit poetry with Malay poetry because of the overlap in the two.

She says: "There are some Sanskrit words in Malay poetry, and sometimes the poets incorporate them when they find that it expresses their ideas better."

The hour-long show, which features 17 dancers, is about the union of the Hindu mythological figures Shiva and Parvathi.

Bhaskar says: "It's not a story, but we're trying to portray a philosophy through dance. Shiva and Parvathi are the male and female aspects of human nature. They are not husband and wife, or brother and sister, but two vehicles of an idea, two expressions."

The curtain will rise on a performance set to Abdul Ghani's poem Ripples.

Introducing the poem, Bhaskar says: "When you sit and meditate, sometimes there can be a lot of thoughts in your mind, like when you throw a stone into a pond, and it ripples."

It will be performed in the classical Indian Kathak style of dance. Bhaskar says: "Kathak was originally practised in North India in the king's court. There is an influence of Muslim culture in it, which is why I chose this style."

The next two segments are danced to the poetry of Kalidasa, and show Shiva and Parvathi preparing for their union.

These will be danced by an ensemble in the Bharatanatyam style, and Bhaskar says that living in Singapore for almost 60 years has changed her take on the form.

"Seeing Chinese, Malay and other dance forms, I have been influenced by their style of moving and spacing," she says. "In Indian dance, there is no group choreography, it is a solo lyrical dance, but I have learnt how to choreograph using more than one dancer on stage."

The finale, which will be danced in the Odissi style, shows Shiva and Parvathi uniting in a half-man and half-woman form, sharing a single body.

While the show will treat the audience to an epic mythological union, Bhaskar says that she will keep the staging simple.

"There won't be any props. I'm not a fan of props and the costumes will be traditional. Indian dance is about gestures, and expressions, and unless it's necessary, I won't use anything else."


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.

Purchase this article for republication.



Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.