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KP Bhaskar (1925 - April 17, 2013)

April 19, 2013

KP Bhaskar, a leading light in the Indian dance community of Singapore and former president of WDA Singapore chapter passed away in Singapore on the morning of April 17, 2013 due to heart related illness.

Born in 1925 in the south Indian state of Kerala, KP Bhaskar began his dancing career learning Kathakali at the Royal College of Dance, Travancore. Through the years, he studied Kathakali under several gurus and also learned other dances like Manipuri and Kathak, as well as ballet from a Russian ballerina while in Bangalore and Kandian dance while in Sri Lanka. Among his gurus was the world famous Uday Shankar, brother of sitar legend Ravi Shankar, for whom he worked in the dance film project of ‘Kalpana.’ He then worked at the Gemini Studios in Madras as assistant dance director. He joined the Nataraja Shakunthala dance troupe in Madras and then the Indian Army’s dance troupe during the Second World War, performing for the army overseas in lands as far flung as in the Middle East and Africa. Then came the invitation to teach and perform in Australia.



KP Bhaskar & Santha Bhaskar
Bhaskar stopped in Singapore on his way to Australia in 1952. After unforeseen circumstances led Bhaskar to stay in Singapore, he took advantage of his situation and established Bhaskar's Academy of Dance, where he started teaching dance in Singapore and Malaysia. In 1955, Bhaskar returned to India to marry Pankyamma Santhamma, a talented young dancer and choreographer. He and Santha performed all over the island and peninsula. In 1965, when Singapore separated from Malaysia, the Bhaskars had to close down their Malaysian branches and concentrated their work in Singapore. In 1988, Nrityalaya Aesthetics Society, a non-profit teaching institution, was established. From specialising in teaching Bharatanatyam, it expanded to include classes, performances and lectures in Kuchipudi, Kathak, Mohiniattam, Carnatic and Hindustani vocals, veena, flute, violin, mridangam, harmonium, sitar, tabla, and even western music. Nrityalaya remains one of Singapore's most reputable arts institutions boasting over 3000 students and is experiencing continued growth.

Bhaskar has written three books on Indian dance and has contributed numerous articles in art magazines and papers at both national and international conferences. In addition, he has written scripts for television, including a 13-part series on Bharatanatyam and a 26-part series titled ‘Aspects of Indian Dance.’ He is also the recipient of several prestigious awards including the Pingat Jasa Gemilang (PJG), Natya Kalanidhi and Nritya Siromani (Honorary doctorate degree). He founded Bhaskar's Art Academy Ltd. in 2001 with the vision to provide Singapore Indian artistes with more career opportunities and to expose Singaporeans to professional level classical Indian dance productions. Bhaskar’s Arts Academy Ltd. is Singapore's premiere Indian performing arts group, producing several large scale performances in Singapore and abroad.

His involvement in the community bestowed him with the honour of heading a cultural mission to India in 1962/63. He was a member of the People's Association and the National Theatre Trust. He was also chairman of the first Dance Advisory Committee under the Ministry of Culture. Bhaskar was active in the committee of many cultural bodies including the Kreta Ayer People's Theatre, National Theatre Club and Singapore Arts Federation, not to mention the Singapore Kathakali Yogam, of which he was president for 20 years. He served as the president of Nrityalaya Aesthetics Society and chairman of Bhaskar's Arts Academy. Bhaskar was a yoga expert who studied meditation in the Himalayas.

Comments

I remember well, Mr. Bhaskar’s magnanimous nature and generous hospitality, not to mention his towering knowledge of Indian dance, culture and philosophy. He gave so much to the Singapore community and beyond and touched many lives especially in dance. Sincerest condolences to the family and all his students, friends and  colleagues .
- Dr Cheryl Stock
Secretary General, World Dance Alliance
(April 21, 2013)


I had known K P Bhaskar for many years as my colleague Prof. Sivashankar from Rabindra Bharati University had worked with him in Uday Shankar's film Kalpana. Some fifteen years ago, Bhaskar had invited me to Singapore for lectures on dance and we built up friendship over the years. He was a generous man, upright, hard working and always ready to help artistes. With his wife Santha, he ran the Nrtiyalaya Aesthetic Society training hundreds of young Singaporean, Chinese, immigrant Indian boys and girls.

We travelled together for Ramayana conference to Bangkok. Later on we went to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat temples, which we both enjoyed immensely. Whenever I visited Singapore I invariably called upon him and Santha. He was a yoga expert and used to tell me that his long life is due to his regular yoga practice. May his soul rest in peace.
Dr. Sunil Kothari
(April 19, 2013)

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