Contributing to a diverse arts scene and developing young talents
Opening remarks by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, at the International Dance Day Festival
25 September 2021
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening. Such a pleasure to be here.
It is a wonderful privilege to be part of the audience to enjoy what we see on stage, and to really feel the arts. Not just to watch, but feel it, very much in our veins.
International Dance Day Festival
At the recent Patron of the Arts Awards last week, I said in my speech that one of the privileges of being the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth is precisely to be here, present at occasions like this. To experience the remarkable diversity that the arts in Singapore has to offer and to enjoy the rich vibrancy of the presentation.
Today, we are here in person to witness, to watch, to appreciate dance; for the joy it brings to all of us – from the dancers, to the audience, as I could feel that emotion come through as I sat there watching the dances. And for its ability to bring people together from all backgrounds, all walks of life. The common experience, the unifying factor that we have as Singaporeans coming together in a multicultural and multiracial society was really evident in the performances that we have seen.
I would like to congratulate Artistic Director Ms Shantha Ratii and the Shantha Ratii Initiatives (SRI), for the successful organisation of the 5th International Dance Day Festival.
Ms Ratii has four decades of experience in performance, choreography and teaching, and has continually amazed both local and international audiences through her tremendously innovative vibrant works. She has enriched our arts scene with her pursuit of artistic excellence and is truly an inspiration to many established and aspiring artists.
Over this two-day festival, you have brought together artists from diverse disciplines and cultures with the vision of making dance more accessible for all.
Today, we are able to enjoy two dance collaborations:
a)One And All, a fusion of Indian and Chinese dance, is a collaboration between SRI and Sheng Hong Arts Institute; and
b)Warrior Woman, which presents both Indian and Malay martial dance traditions by SRI and Era Dance Theatre.
This really reflects the unique character of Singapore arts in a multicultural society, where we retain our own distinct cultural backgrounds, but coming together we are far greater than sum of parts.
Sri Shikara Award
Next, I would like to congratulate Dr Uma Rajan for receiving the Sri Shikara Award today. The Sri Shikara Award, instituted in 2018, recognises individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the propagation and expansion of dance and the arts.
In addition to her active involvement in the health and social service sectors, Dr Rajan has also contributed significantly to the local Indian music and dance scene with her understanding of Indian classical dance and music.
Dr Rajan chaired the inaugural Festival of Asian Performing Arts in 1993 and its following two editions, as well chaired the National Indian Music Competition Advisory Committee from 2008 to 2020, just last year.
Beyond these, we thank Dr Rajan for working closely with the government in developing the arts sector as one of the founding Council Members of the National Arts Council (NAC). And she continues to provide her valuable views to NAC as an External Assessor and panellist for various NAC grants and schemes till today.
I look forward to her continued support and contributions to our arts landscape.
On a personal note, I have worked with Dr Rajan for many years and I was so privileged to have her work with me in the grassroots, in the arts scene, in my constituency. It has been a privilege working with you. A lot of what I learnt about Indian fine arts and classical arts is from Dr Rajan. Her passion for the arts never ceases to amaze me; a truly well-deserved award.
Importance of developing young talents
Last but not least, I am heartened to see the young dancers who are participating in the International Dance Day Festival.
The arts in Singapore will continue and must continue to thrive, only if we continue to nurture future generations of artistic talent, bring them up and to mentor them. They have the incredible ability to learn, to want to learn, but it is the mentorship that will make a tremendous difference.
Through their efforts to hone their craft, they also learn the importance of values like hard work, perseverance and discipline. Each time as they perform, they gain confidence, and are encouraged to discover their individual and unique forms of expression.
I would like to commend SRI for your efforts to develop our young talents through the SPARKS programme since 2020. This mentorship programme is a great opportunity for young dancers to refine and elevate their artistic skills.
Under the guidance of Ms Ratii, young dancers are guided in the choreography of their own works, and gain confidence and increasing mastery of the arts.
I hope that many arts groups will similarly reach out to guide, to mentor and to allow our young artists to come through and flourish. I think that is the ultimate objective that will truly make Singapore a vibrant art centre. We are mature enough, talented enough to develop our own unique brand of Singaporean culture, particularly in the arts.
With that, I wish everyone a pleasant evening. Thank you.