Santha Bhaskar, a pioneer of classical Indian dance in Singapore and a beloved dean of the arts, died on Saturday, local media reported. She was 83 years old.
Bhaskar was the chief choreographer and artistic director of Bhaskar’s Arts Academy – which was founded by her husband KP Bhaskar in 1952 and which she first joined as an instructor, Channel News Asia reported.
The academy is in the midst of its 70th anniversary celebrations and had just staged a musical performance last weekend at the Stamford Arts Center called ‘Sangeetha Sapthathi’. Both shows were sold out.
Bhaskar was reportedly at the show on the second night when she fell ill and was taken to hospital. She died just as the first song of the evening began playing, according to a note sent to students and parents at the academy.
The academy announced her death on Sunday morning, saying she had “taken her last bow”.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce that Artistic Director Santha Bhaskar is no longer with us. We are still processing this sudden and unexpected loss,” the academy wrote on Facebook.
“We are deeply touched by the many calls and messages reaching us. We can only believe that this beloved soul of the arts community, and just about everyone else, is smiling from above and asking us to look ahead and keep going. the journey she started many years ago,” he said, adding that details of the wake were still being confirmed.
Bhaskar’s work is widely celebrated. She was awarded the prestigious Singapore Cultural Medallion in 1990 and the Civil Service Star in 2016.
Last year, Bhaskar received the Meritorious Service Medal and was inducted into the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame.
Apart from her knowledge of traditional Indian performing arts, Bhaskar was also known for her keen interest in other cultural art forms. One of his landmark works is “The Butterfly Lovers”, a definitive 1958 piece infusing Chinese visual elements with Indian song and dance.
Vidhya Nair, director of local dance company Apsara Arts and former president of the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society, wrote a touching tribute to her Bharathanatyam teacher on Facebook on Saturday night.
“There will never be another like her,” Nair said. “As Singaporeans, we should be proud to look back on her life and work. She blessed and kicked off her company’s 70th anniversary celebration. Maybe it was meant to be. She left with the same vigor and the same positive (with which) she lived her life, ”said the Channel quoted Nair.
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