Importance of Asian Dance from Cultural Perspective with Reference to Epic Ramayana | with Dr Sunil Kothari

Date: 13 Sept 2012 
Time: 4-6pm
Venue: Lee Kong Chian Gallery, Level 1, NUS Museum

Admission is free. RSVP to

Jointly organised by the Asia Research Institute, NUS and NUS Museum

In Southeast Asia religious diversity has enabled the ancient indigenous belief systems and other religions from both East and West, to co-exist along side each other. They do so, as we see them, in form of entities that create, in the process, nuances of expressive arts such as dance,music and theatre. Before arrival of European colonisers in AD 1500, mainland Southeast Asia had already established religious orders and centres for learning based on teachings ,both puritanical and eclectic, of Hinduism,Buddhism, Islam and the indigenous belief systems. Christianity came with the Portuguese and Dutch colonial powers from Eastern India.With the result that Southeast Asia was exposed to a variety of cultural influences which fused with indigenous aesthetics and spiritual belief systems.

Therefore it seems natural that the Southeast Asians have created dances that continuously remind them and inform them of the links with the aesthetics of religious and divine iconographies of other countries,their religious beliefs and dancing.The symbiotic content of iconographies, content of images belonging to different religions of Southeast Asia suggest connection with the Indic or Hinduism, Dharmic or Buddhism and Abrahmic or Islam and Christianity.

Dance is one of the most important expressions of this phenomenon.The dancing of the sacred themes is of great importance to Southeast Asians ,especially in their attempt to affirm social, political or cultural allegiance to their nation and their rulers.

We notice that Ramayana as a theme runs across Southeast Asia and has its deep connection with India.

In this presentation I have focused on the Ramayana theme and its expressions in dance dramas of countries like India, Thailand, Indonesia, Bali and Cambodia, with brief excerpts of dance sequences from DVDS/CDS and show how the theme with its ramifications has regional aesthetic. 

The talk will be chaired by Prof Prasenjit Duara, Asia Research Institute and Office of Deputy President (Research and Technology), NUS.

Sunil Kothari is a leading dance historian, scholar, author and critic of Indian classical dances.

He has to his credit more than 12 books on Indian classical dance forms and allied subjects including definitive works on Bharata Natyam, Odissi, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Chhau Dances of India, edited volumes on 'RASA', 'Damaru', photo biographies of legendary dancers Uday Shankar and Rukmini Devi, edited volume on 'New Directions In Indian dance' etc. Dr Kothari was a dance critic of the Times of India group of publications and wrote for the Times of India for 40 years as a dance critic.  

Dr Kothari has held several positions: Uday Shankar Professor and Chair , Dance Department, Rabindra Baharti Univeristy, Kolkata: Dean and Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawharlal Nehru Univerisity, New Delhi; National Porfesor of Dance, Under UGC scheme for two year, Resident professor at the Dance Department of New York University, New York, USA for the year 1993 under Asian Cultural Council Fellowship, New York,USA. He has received the civil honour PADMA SHRI from the President of India, the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for overall contribution to the field of dance and the Fulbright Fellowship, among many other honours and awards. 

He is also a member of the Advisory committee of Indian Council for Cultural Relations, (ICCR) and is currently a Vice President of the World Dance Alliance, Asia Pacific, South Asia, representing India. He is also a Member of the Executive Commiteee of International Dance Council, UNESCO, Paris.

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