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DateLine Wednesday, 27 June 2007

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Crossroads of dance: A meeting of traditions

DANCE: The Nelung Dance Academy will stage its newest production “Crossroads of Dance” on June 29 at the Lionel Wendt Theatre at 7 p.m., when it presents three outstanding dancers, Mohan Sudusinghe, Rangika Jeewantha and Wendy Perera to Sri Lankan audiences.

Mohan and Rangika are both traditional Kandyan dancers who have extended their skills and present innovative choreography. Wendy is a senior student of Nelung Dance Academy now on the BA (Hons) Dance programme at La Salle, Singapore.

The evening celebrates the diversity and beauty of dance, having traditional dancing from Sri Lanka like the Kandyan; Modern and Latin American Dance; innovative fusions as well as classical ballet, on the same stage.

The evening is also a ‘Tribute to Teachers’. Mohan was taught by Nandana Balasuriya and Rangika by the late Mr. Gunasekera of Prince of Wales, Moratuwa and also by Piyasara Shilpathipathi.

It will be an evening to honour them through dance. Mohan’s ‘Warrior Dance’ which highlights the skilful and impressive movements of prince Bandula is dedicated to Nandana Balasuriya.

Rangika will present the ‘Gajaga Vannama’ which was choreographed by Piyasara and is a tribute to him. Parents are not forgotten in their role as teachers, when Mohan and his sisters will dance ‘Avarjana’ (reminiscences) as a tribute to their late father. Niloufer Peiris will dance with Tony Fernandez, dancer and teacher of Latin American dance, to a song by Frank Sinatra as a personal tribute to her father.

Mohan presents ‘Crossover’, a contemporary dance item choreographed with a mixture of Kandyan, Latin American and Sri Lankan Folk Dance.

He would be joined by Kevin Nugera, well-known Latin American dancer and teacher in this item. In ‘Black and White’ he will dance with Ranjith, an expert in martial arts in experimental choreography which explores the similarities between dance and Martial Arts.

Rangika will also present his own choreography with items like ‘The Eagle and the Girl’ and ‘Dev’, a fusion of Kathak and traditional Kandyan. Rangika will also dance a (challenging) classical ballet solo, ‘Wave’ created for him by Niloufer, music Grieg.

Mohan and Rangika have been collaborating with the Nelung Dance Academy for many years, (Rangika being a full-time student there as well) are both founders of their own dance companies, the Lak Uruma Foundation and Rivega Dance Studio respectively. Their own students will be joining them in this evening of dance.

A not-too-often found opportunity to see the demands of classical ballet will be shown when Wendy Perera demonstrates the technique of the four little swans - Act II of Swan Lake (1877).

In her solos, created for her by her teacher, Niloufer Pieris, she will show the continuing tradition and development of classical ballet started by female pioneers, Marie Camargo (1710-1770) and Marie Salle (1707-1756). She will dance ‘Prelude’ to a cello solo by Bach and ‘Erwartung’ (Expectation) to an Etude by Chopin.

Niloufer Pieris, the founder and director of the Nelung Dance Academy feels that it is important to promote and encourage the new generation of dancers and musicians, if Sri Lanka wishes to maintain its standards, traditions of the past and links with the rest of South-East Asia.

The Nelung Dance Academy will also celebrate the work of Thusitha Ranasinghe and Maximus, recipient of the 2006 BBC World Challenge Award for Elephant paper, by showing the twelve-minute documentary done on him by the BBC.

The significance of the work done at Maximus shows that the human and the animal worlds do not always have to be in conflict - a cause for celebration, says Niloufer.

Tickets for ‘Crossroads of Dance’ will be available at the Lionel Wendt Theatre.


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