Gatha Odissi: The Odyssey of Odissi

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I attended a most spectacular dance performance earlier this evening. “Gatha Odissi: The Odyssey of Odissi,” a co-production by Orissa Dance Academy (India) and Taal School of Odissi (Singapore), traced the history of Oddisi, from its devidasi (temple dancer) origins to its near extinction during the Raj to its modern, post-Independence and diasporic resurgence.

“Gatha Odissi” did not assume that viewers had any knowledge of Odissi dance vocabulary and the performance included English subtitles projected on a screen. I know a lot about a dance, but even I learned something today! Gatha Odissi included video footage of Gotipua, an acrobatic precursor of Odissi classical dance which is performed by young boys who dress as women to praise Jagannath and Krishna. Gotipua weathered the British Anti-Nautch (literally “anti-dance”) Movement because it was danced by males.

Odissa Dance Academy is one of India’s finest companies and directed by Aruna Mohanty, a most skilled performer. Her solo abhinaya this evening, a “Sitayana” of sorts, or a telling of the epic Ramayana from Sita’s point of view, was just remarkable. Taal School of Odissi’s dancers, including Indu Vijay, the school’s director, and Aarthi Subash Nair, an twenty-four-year-old phenom, dazzled.

I’m just disappointed for the performers that Raffles Hotel’s 400-seat Jubilee Hall was only half full. It was an excellent show.

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The artists of Orissa Dance Academy and Taal School of Odissi will be conducting a variety of performing arts workshops and lecture/demonstrations from April 27 to April 29 at the Temple of Fine Arts, including a three-day introductory mardal (the the traditional percussion instrument of Odisha) workshop. Contact TFA or Taal to register; it was announced at the end of the performance that there is still space!

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Isn’t the photograph above just beautiful? There are more from the shoot here.

Singapore Flamenco Festival 2015

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I attended Day 2 of the Singapore Flamenco Festival 2015 yesterday at CHIJMES. This annual event is organised by Flamenco Sin Fronteras, one of the country’s premier dance companies, and CHIJMES.

Saturday’s feria got off to a very late start due to the torrential rains of the afternoon which left the stage drenched, but once it did, was an evening of entertaining performances. The series featured not only quality Flamenco by Flamenco Sin Fronteras and Rose Borromeo Spanish Dance Company, but also Sevillanas, an Andalusian folk dance, by the very young dancers of Le Grand School of Dance, and Zambra Mora, a dance performed by the Romani people of Granada which is believed to have evolved from earlier Moorish dances, by Hsaio Min Dance Art.

It was my first time attending the festival, and I was impressed by both the technique on display and the incredible infrastructure and support that this dance form, one of my favorites, has in Singapore. I’m bummed that I will not be attending the Festival’s concluding cross-disciplinary production featuring Flamenco, Kathak, and contemporary dance, Journey of Time, tonight. If you do, report back here!

Why You Should Visit Singapore’s Little India Now at Serious Eats

DSC_069120150413-fifth-season-momos-pooja-makhijani.jpg I’m over at Serious Eats, a site with “a democratic yet scientific approach to cooking the best dishes, busting food myths, and delivering strong opinions on what you should eat next, where, when, and why,” with my guide to best experience all the vibrant foods that make Singapore’s Little India special.

An excerpt:

When I first moved from New York City to Singapore, it was in Little India, a neighborhood to the east of the metropolis’s Central Business District, not an American expatriate enclave, that I found an escape from homesickness. It was here that I heard the melodies of familiar languages and ate familiar foods, dishes that my family has cooked and eaten in both the Old World and the New.

Serangoon Road, the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, has been for centuries a commercial and community space for immigrants from the Subcontinent. Indians were among the first migrants to Singapore in the early 19th century, and Singapore was part of a larger interlocking colonial network, the hub of which was India.

The area continued to develop as the center of South Asian life (largely Hindu and Tamil speaking), as a focal point for a new migration, and as a growing commercial center. The name “Little India,” is a Singapore Tourism Board (STB) concoction—the moniker was not used until the 1980s. That was when Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority earmarked Little India as a conservation area and STB demarcated the neighborhood as a cultural heritage tourism area. Today, the neighborhood is a religious and cultural hub for the South Asian community, both local and foreign, as well as a major tourist destination.

Food is the neighborhood’s choice commodity, yet few travel guides detail the rich and unique cuisines found in Little India. Where else can you find the authentic tastes of the entire Subcontinent in the area of less than one square mile? The flavors found in Little India are the real deal and not watered down for Western palates; the neighborhood’s restaurants cater to this city’s large, diverse and discerning South Asian population.

Continue reading “Why You Should Visit Singapore’s Little India Now.”

Bookbinding on Sassy Mama Singapore

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I’m over at Sassy Mama Singapore with the second of a three-part book arts DIY series!

An excerpt:

Basic bookbinding requires no heavy equipment. All you need are a ruler and scissors and a few other minor tools. If you are keen on building a professional-quality hand bookbinding toolbox, click here to see where in Singapore you might buy your materials (or a close approximation thereof).

Here, I’ve partnered with Keith Premchand to bring to you and your children three easy bookbinding techniques. This series of posts by no means encompasses everything there is to know about book making, but I hope that it will inspire you to explore more!

Continue reading “Project 2: Paper Bag Ephemera Journal.”

Girl Overboard! Everything’s Coming Up Rosie by Sheri Tan and Illustrated by Fernando Hierro

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Girl Overboard! Everything’s Coming Up Rosie by Sheri Tan and Illustrated by Fernando Hierro is the third (and final?) installment in a series of middle-grade novels about Rosie Smith, a mixed-race, third culture child who has moved from New York City to Singapore. In Everything’s Coming Up Rosie, the eponymous protagonist and her friends, Pink and Ben, take on water polo, student council, and Rosie’s nemesis, Sharon (again).

Everything’s Coming Up Rosie is a sweet denouement to the series: Rosie reaches a détente with Sharon and Tracey, Rosie’s mother, perfects her laksa recipe. Tracey, too, is caught between cultures, and is reconciling what it means to be “Singaporean” after living in the United States for decades; this is the richest subplot in the book and one that has resonated with many adult readers of the series, including myself!

But I WANT MORE and I Facebooked this sentiment to the author, Sheri Tan. There are so few books about third culture children and/or immigrants in the Singapore literary landscape AND so few, if any, that feature a fully-realized multicultural, multinational, multiracial cast of characters. (Pink is Singaporean Indian, for example, and she is NOT just a visual supplement or plot device, but a full and wonderful character.)

So… more books, Sheri? Please?

I’m Not Perfect. I’m a Mom. by Jasmine Han and Shelly Holly

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Parenting memoirs are a genre unto themselves in the U.S.. Here in Singapore? Not so much. The “parenting blogosphere” (mostly married women) tends to put parenting into soft focus—take a look at Instagram *shudder*—and little is said about the unpaid work, often mundane, boring, and unappreciated (both by other individuals and the state), that it is. In addition, “The Cult of the Yummy Mummy” is a thing here, both among Singaporeans and expatriates, and confessional writing is not.

So, when the kind folks at Epigram Books told me about I’m Not Perfect. I’m a Mom., a parenting memoir by pole dance and striptease instructor, Jasmine Han, and U.S. expatriate mother, Shelly Holly, my interest was piqued.

I read I’m Not Perfect. I’m a Mom. on Friday. My overall impression: meh.

I expected something different, something braver, something edgier. Sure, the narrator—a composite character which as a literary device does not work at all here—makes mention of post-baby sex, but the book is regressive (it relies heavily on the “hapless dad” stereotype) and generic. The anecdotes detailed here are a mere skimming over of a series of events, rather than a deep sink into the specificity and emotional reality of human experience. And little, if anything, is Singapore-specific with regards to parenting. I, for one, would have appreciated a more honest telling of the expatriate parenting experience from Holly.

Still, it is the first local book I’ve seen in this genre. And it’s a quick read (though my friends will tell you that I read very fast).

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