This year’s Heritage Fest Singapore has started (11-22 Aug). Since we’re doing a unit on Singapore tales, I brought my kids yesterday to the exhibit entitled Tales From Our Shores @ The Centrepoint.
I thought we would spend maybe 30 minutes reading the panel displays at the exhibit about the Singapore folk tales featured in the new book Attack of the Swordfish and Other Singapore Tales, then catch one or two of the 9 performances slated yesterday. Instead, we ended up staying for more than 2 hours enjoying several musical performances – the kinds we’ve never seen before.
South Indian Wedding Celebration Dance
The first performance, a South Indian wedding celebration dance, was a pleasant surprise and an eye opener for me. What I only knew of Indian dances were glimpses of Bollywood dances from movies, and I didn’t really understand or appreciate them. While watching this group of young Indian men and women dancing with such emotion, such movements and so much joy, I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. Even though I couldn’t understand the lyrics of the music, I saw the story in their faces and in their movements. Watching this South Indian wedding dance felt like being part of a celebration.
Another performance that convinced me that Indian dances are better seen and appreciated live was the Bhangra dance. This very lively folk dance from Punjab was performed by 5 young men in colorful costumes. They looked like they were having so much fun, and they connected with the audience quite well. They also did a Bhangra stunt dance, where one of the dancers would carry one man on this shoulders and another would hang around his waist – and the three of them would spin! Amazing!
The Dikir Barat performance, a Malay art form of calling and response singing, was also a lot of fun to watch (albeit a bit loud for my son’s ears since we were seated in front). I could see how the men were enjoying their performance, singing and dancing while seated on stage. Their smiles were contagious. (This reminded me a bit of the Kecak Dance of Bali, but this was more lighthearted.)
Maniam’s tabla playing was the last but definitely not the least of the performances we saw that day. I love the sounds of percussion instruments, and how Maniam made such upbeat music with the tabla had me (and most of the audience) bobbing my head up and down in sheer delight. He was playing the tabla with so much passion and grace and his music was so much fun.
Maniam, the tabla player
I’m glad my kids and I went to the Heritage Fest exhibit @ The Centrepoint. I hope that, aside from discovering beautiful new art forms from other cultures, my kids saw that what makes a performance such a delight for its audiences is the joy that the performers have. When a dancer, a singer or a musician is having fun on stage, the audience has fun too. Isn’t that what performing is all about?