The Malay Heritage Foundation

Tyara Chynta Puteri Noor Azhar Mohamed: Teman Warisan Recipient 2023

Tyara Chynta Puteri: Championing Malay Heritage with Passion and Grace

The Malay Heritage Foundation (MHF) announced its third batch of Teman Warisan (Cultural Heritage Ambassador) recipients during Hari Warisan (Cultural Heritage Appreciation Day) 2023. In a recent conversation, we had the privilege of engaging with Tyara Chynta Puteri, our youngest Teman Warisan, who received a prestigious appointment by the Malay Heritage Foundation during the commemoration of Hari Warisan 2023. The significant event took place on January 20, 2024, at the culturally vibrant Persada Budaya, located within Wisma Geylang Serai. As the foundation welcomed Tyara into this esteemed role, it marked a personal achievement for her and a recognition of her dedication to preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage embedded in the Malay traditions. 

Tyara Chynta Puteri’s appointment serves as a testament to her commitment to the arts and her notable contributions to the cultural landscape. Positioned as the youngest Teman Warisan, Tyara brings a fresh and dynamic perspective to the role, representing the enthusiasm and passion of the younger generation in safeguarding the Malay heritage. This appointment acknowledges Tyara’s accomplishments and underscores the Malay Heritage Foundation’s commitment to nurturing and empowering emerging talents who play a crucial role in carrying forward the legacy of our cultural heritage.

Embarking on her journey at an early age, Tyara’s passion for the arts led her to become an integral part of Bangsawan Cilik. 🎭🌟 (Credit: Tyara Chynta Puteri)

Q: Your journey as an artist is truly remarkable. You started with ballet at five and ventured into Malay opera at eight. What initially drew you to these seemingly contrasting art forms, and how do you blend them to create your unique artistic identity?

Ballet is an artistic and classical genre entirely different from other dance genres. Similarly, Malay opera is unique and a classical form of Malay theatre. I see many similarities between them, and I like them both, so I want to preserve them. So far, I’ve had many opportunities to practice my classical ballet training in bangsawan performances. They both can go well together. I’m also not limiting my dance practice to bangsawan performances alone. I’ve blended my dance training into Chinese opera performances as well. So, right now, I am comfortable whenever I need to transition from one art form to another.

Q: Tell us about your experience as a pioneer member of Anggerik Temasek Bangsawan Singapura’s Junior troupe. What challenges did you face, and what were some unforgettable moments during your early opera performances?

We first started training as a small group of less than ten members made up of primary school kids back in 2019 when my father founded Anggerik Temasek Bangsawan. Together with children of other bangsawan actors, we began weekly trainings to learn how to improve our acting, dancing and singing skills. It was hard initially as we had to learn how to speak in Bahasa Istana and learn various adab and gerak bangsawan. Over time, the training grew more fun, and we grew more confident in delivering bangsawan dialogues showcased in our first bangsawan production, Hang Nadim. It was very memorable. Hang Nadim was also Anggerik Temasek’s first-ever production, and it was staged at Tanjong Pagar CC and recorded for an online telecast by Wisma Geylang Serai. We were also invited by Asian Civilisation Museum to curate bangsawan for its Crossing Cultures online series. Since then, the Bangsawan Cilik troupe has grown into a large troupe, and we are still growing! 

Q: Your participation in competitions like Get the Beat and the International Arts Festival demonstrates your dedication to ballet. Has your involvement in the competitive dance scene shaped your artistry in any way?

So far, participating in competitions has been a way to set high standards for myself. I could see where I stood among other dancers who were also very dedicated to the dance craft. It has built my resilience and taught me that hard work and discipline are important to succeed. Through competitions, I have had the opportunity to refine my dance artistry. The intense preparation for competitions was demanding, forcing me to become a better dancer. From that, too, I am able to prepare myself mentally and physically for all my stage performances.

🩰 Dancing to Success: Tyara’s Passion Shines Bright in Get the Beat Competition! 🌟 (Credit: Tyara Chynta Puteri)
Tyara Radiates Joy alongside the Chingay Bangsawan Contingent! 🎉🎭! (Credit: Tyara Chynta Puteri)

Q: How do you excel in ballet and opera, each demanding physical and emotional commitment? Do you find synergies between the two disciplines that improve your performance?

I must say the last few years of practising ballet and opera have been very intense. Both art forms demand high discipline and commitment – I train five to seven sessions a week for ballet and up to three times a week for bangsawan.  Each training requires different sets of physical, mental and intellectual commitment. At times, there are synergies between these art forms, and at times, they are somewhat exclusive. Each training makes me a better transdisciplinary performer.

Q:  Can you share a memorable moment from your international experiences, such as participating in the Experimental Theatre Festival in Hanoi and the ASEAN Panji Festival in Solo? How did these experiences impact your artistic growth?

In Hanoi, for the Experimental Theatre Festival in October 2022, it was the first time I was performing in Chinese opera, where I had to deliver dialogues in Mandarin! I had to train and be coached intensely for two months to adapt to the rest of the Mandarin-speaking troupe, who all rallied to help me integrate into the troupe. I was lucky not to have to worry about my dance choreography so that I could focus on my dialogue delivery. For the ASEAN Panji Festival in Solo, I was sharing the stage with other adult professional ethnic dancers from eight other ASEAN countries, and that thought alone was overwhelming. I had to ensure that I represented the best of my dance abilities, as I was dancing as Panji Semirang’s love interest, Dewi Sekartaji. Performing to the crowd at the City Hall of Solo was something I will remember for the rest of my life!

A Star Amongst the ASEAN Panji Festival Dancers ✨ (Credit: Tyara Chynta Puteri)
Tyara and Her Sisters Illuminate the Hanoi Experimental Theatre Festival in Vibrant Costumes! 🌟🎭 (Credit: Tyara Chynta Puteri)

Q: Learning from Chinese Opera doyen Dr Chua Soo Pong and performing internationally must have been incredibly enriching. How did these experiences broaden your understanding of Asian performing arts and influence your artistic goals?

Training and learning from Dr Chua Soo Pong is an experience of a lifetime. Not only that, but I also had the golden opportunity to travel to perform under his direct tutelage when we went to Hanoi, Vietnam, and Solo-Yogyakarta, Indonesia. As Dr Chua himself has a high appreciation of bangsawan as he was a close comrade of the late Hj Hamid Ahmad, Singapore’s father of Bangsawan, Dr Chua was very mindful of my bangsawan and ballet training that he integrated these skills into his Chinese opera dance choreography every time he directed me. Through that, I learnt that there are similarities between Chinese opera and bangsawan. It also motivated me to learn about other cultures and their traditional art forms that I can someday integrate into my future performances.

Q: You also explored traditional Korean theatre in workshops. Are there plans to incorporate elements of other Asian art forms into your repertoire, and if so, why?

The visit to Pohang was very eye-opening for me. We were treated to observe and engage in the immersive presentation and workshop by the Traditional Yeonhee Company there. It gave me a burst of ideas to one day integrate art forms into my repertoire. By doing that, I believe I can share the diversity of the rich Asian art forms and highlight the similarities between them, making Asia a special place to be.

🌟 Tyara’s Journey: Training with Dr. Chua Soo Pong, an Experience of a Lifetime! ✈️🎭 (Credit: Tyara Chynta Puteri)

Q: Currently, at SOTA, you strive to refine your stage presence. What do you hope to achieve through this academic experience, and how do you envision it impacting your future performances?

Being a dance student at SOTA will allow me to explore different dance genres and styles. It will surely expand my knowledge and technical dance skills through the years of study. I also hope to collaborate with other students from different art forms like visual arts, music, theatre and literary arts to stage a multi-sensorial cultural experience for our audiences one day.

Q: You play the cello and trumpet – how do these musical skills complement your dance and opera abilities, and do you ever consider incorporating them into your artistic endeavours?

I used to play the cello and the trumpet, but I hadn’t pursued my musical side since I chose dance to deepen my knowledge and skills. It was a pity somehow, but time was a factor for me – to master a craft required a reasonable amount of time dedicated to it. Having said that, I was happy that I chose ballet and bangsawan to pursue. With an early start in my musical journey, the knowledge of music has helped me understand rhythms, tempos and musical pieces better for my dance and bangsawan performances. I never know; I might pick the cello or trumpet up again in the future!

Radiant in her Bangsawan Attire, Ready for the Stage! ✨🎭 (Credit: Tyara Chynta Puteri)
Tyara Takes Center Stage in Bangsawan Action: Ready, Set, Action! 🌟🎬 (Credit: Tyara Chynta Puteri)

Q: Could you share a bit about your mentors, Ms. Jovita Bautista and Mr. Nadiputra Almahdi? How have they shaped your artistic journey, and what lessons have you learned from them?

I knew Ms. Jovita since I started ballet training at The Ballet School Singapore while in preschool. Ms. Jovita was the one who talent-spotted me and put me into the school’s elite program and then into ballet competitions. She groomed me through the years into what I am today. Currently, Ms. Jovita runs her dance school called Stellar School of Dance, and I’m thrilled to be training under her as a soloist. She has inspired me in many ways, and I’m sure many other girls in the dance school feel the same way, too! Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to work under Tok Nadiputra, as he mainly directs the adult troupe in Anggerik Temasek. I would definitely love to in the near future! However, I would like to give a special mention to the founder and director of Anggerik Temasek Bangsawan, Mr. Noor Azhar Mohamed, who is also my Papa. Papa started Bangsawan Cilik to ensure my generation can continue Bangsawan’s legacy. Together with other children, I have grown to love bangsawan and understand how important it is to keep a cultural heritage such as Bangsawan. This would not have been possible hadn’t I been well trained by Papa and Anggerik Temasek Bangsawan’s dedicated trainers, who gave their weekends to nurture us. I would also one day like to be like Mama, a Seri Panggong in bangsawan who frequently sings in Anggerik Temasek’s productions!

Q: Your dream is to inspire young girls to live their dreams through the performing arts. What advice would you give aspiring young performers who look up to you, and how do you envision contributing to the empowerment of future generations in the arts?

If you are passionate about something, you should never give up on it and pursue it. There may be challenges along the way, but remember that these challenges are momentary. Focus on the end target and believe that you will get there eventually. I hope to be able to encourage and share relatable success stories to motivate other aspiring young performers, even showing them the ropes to becoming a successful young ballerina and young Bangsawan performer!

Tyara at Mediacorp, Bringing Drama to Life on Radio Waves! 🎙️🎭 (Credit: Tyara Chynta Puteri)
Tyara and her Sisters: A Legacy of Talent and Inspiration! 👯‍♀️✨ (Credit: Tyara Chynta Puteri)

Q: What are your hopes and aspirations for the Malay Heritage scene?

I hope that bangsawan will once again be seen as a valuable art form because it truly is. Together with other traditional art forms, the younger generation should be aware of them and have ready access to them to recognise, learn, and practice them. Perhaps every school should introduce bangsawan as a CCA. It is a valuable tool to holistically teach the Malay language and our heritage. I hope children like me will also be actively targeted for Malay heritage initiatives and activities regularly.

Q: As a Teman Warisan recipient, what do you hope to accomplish to continue championing Malay heritage?

I hope to encourage more children my age to be involved and partake in more Malay culture and heritage activities, whether in school or with the community. I also hope to pursue developing my craft in dance and bangsawan to showcase it to the world someday.

Q: Describe yourself in three words.

Passionate – Affectionate – Motivated.

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