Taking Ramayana on a Chinese opera odyssey: Dr Chua Soo Pong

Dr Chua Soo Pong’s first encounter with the Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam was at the age of nine, back in 1958. 

The performance that had him enchanted was none other than Singapore’s Cultural Medallion recipient Santha Bhaskar’s maiden choreography Butterfly Lovers. Sometimes called the Chinese Romeo and Juliet, Butterfly Lovers is a Chinese legend of a tragic love story, the earliest record of which can be traced back to about 700AD. 

Mesmerised by the dance form, Dr Chua begged his grandmother to allow him to learn Bharatanatyam. “Indian culture is so rich and diverse in its many forms,” he shared. 

It was as a work of love that Dr Chua adapted the Indian epic Ramayana in the style of Chinese opera, which he then carried across the world, captivating audiences at numerous festivals. As the doyen of Chinese opera in Singapore, Dr Chua also weaved together multi-cultural Ramayana performances showcasing the melting pot of art traditions of the little red dot. 

Watch our Spotlight interview with Dr Chua at a time when Indian Heritage Center Culture Fest 2020 has Ramayana as its theme.