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The event featuring Nrityagram, the international Odissi dance sensation from India is organised by the Chitrasena Vajira Dance Foundation. At Nrityagram, dance is a way of life. The founder, Protima Gauri - an exquisite Odissi dancer herself - converted ten acres of farmland into an ideal setting for the study, practice and teaching of classical dance.
Reminiscent of ancient ashrams where gurus imparted not only technique but also a philosophy of being, it is a creative space where dancers, musicians and choreographers live together, sharing their skills and developing their art. The dancers study yoga, meditation, the martial arts as well as Sanskrit, mythology, literature.
As knowledge passes from guru to disciple, the continuity of the classical arts is ensured.
The outside world, too, is an integral part of Nrityagram. Choreographers, movement specialists, sculptors, painters, writers, musicians and theatre people from all over the world, frequently visit the village to perform and give workshops and seminars on their art.
Nrityagram's proudest achievement is its annual spring festival, Vasantahabba, an all night performance of music and dance, the roster of which includes some of the greatest names in India, attended by over forty thousand enthusiastic spectators streaming in from surrounding villages - and beyond.
Following their highly acclaimed tour of the United States, Nrityagram will be performing for the first time in Sri Lanka.
The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble is regarded as one of the foremost dance companies of India and they have performed extensively around the globe.
Although steeped in and dedicated to ancient practice, Nrityagram dancers are also involved in carrying Indian dance into the twenty-first century.
Manasi Tripathy, Rasmi Raj, Pavithra Reddy, Bijayini Satpathy and Surupa Sen are the dancers who make up Nrityagram along with Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi, the music composer, Surupa Sen the artistic director and choreographer and Lynne Fernandez the technical director.
According to recent reviews:
"Nrityagram is the best Indian classical company to come to this area in a long time. It's confident. It's cutting edge. It's a winner!" The Washington Post
"The dancers from Nrityagram stormed the bastion of dance, wowing the knowledgeable audience into a standing ovation!" The Hindu
"One of the most luminous dance events of the year! In addition to impressive technical expertise, they performed with a burnished grace, a selfless concentration and a depth that reflected their intensive training in dance, music, literature, language and philosophy." The New York Times
This event celebrates the birth anniversary of the father of Sri Lankan dance - Guru Chitrasena.
All proceeds will go towards the rebuilding of the Chitrasena Kalayathanaya which has a well deserved reputation for innovating and presenting the very best of traditional Sri Lankan dance and drumming since 1941. It is the first time that the Kalayathanaya has invited a classical Indian dance company to perform.
According to their view through Nrityagram, they recognise kindred spirits which are deeply rooted in their tradition (Odissi). Furthermore they have also innovated dance techniques within their art form, without debasing or commercializing their traditions.
This is a not to be missed opportunity for anyone who craves the need to see world class performers live in Sri Lanka.
Pun chi Kete Wature Gihin in Spanish
The Spanish translation of Prof. Kusuma Karunaratne's short story collection based on tsunami, Punchi Kete Wature Gihin by Indrani Rathnasekara was launched at a ceremony recently. Titled Se Marcho Con La Ola, a copy of the book was presented to Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara. Prof. Kusuma Karunaratne, Prof. Sam Karunaratne and Sumith Ratnasekara were also present.
Ratnasekara is a diploma holder for Spanish Language at Complutense University of Madrid, Spain. Her book contains 12 short stories and is published by Wijesuriya Grantha Kendraya.
Helping communities through Forum Theatre
'Our aim is to bring communities together and through forum theatre which is a larger area of development theatre which is arts for social change" said the co-founder and artistic director of the Pan Intercultural Arts charity, John Martin who was in Sri Lanka for a special forum theatre session at the British Council that was organised by the players from the 'Beyond Borders' association.
"By acting out possible endings to a particular story, people can obtain an insight as to how they can change their behaviour to uplift their society," he said.
Originally a dancer and actor, John Martin trained at the 'Ecole Jacques Lecoq' in Paris after gaining a degree in Drama from Bristol University.
"With forum theatre, we can people the worst possible outcome of a situation and the best so that understanding a social situation is clear," he said.
With over sixty productions to his credit in countries as widespread as Sweden, Germany, France, Nigeria, the USA, India and South Africa, his knowledge of world performance traditions is unique in Britain.
Recent credits include 'Shakti' and 'Sita's Daughters' (on contemporary women's issues), 'Itan Kahani' (on the dangers of social manipulation in traditional story telling as well as directing performances exploring youth suicides (Germany), and religious rivalry (Calcutta, India).
John Martin is a London Arts dance advisor, a Board member of Union Dance Company (London) and Secretary of the Commonwealth Theatre Laboratory. He is author of The Intercultural Performance Handbook (Rout ledge).
He has also founded the 'Vidya Slum Theatre' group in India, training artists for post-tsunami work in Sri Lanka and his work with young adult refugees in London has led to invitations to seed similar work in Switzerland and Hungary.
John Martin has conducted workshops in Polonnaruwa and Batticaloa where many issues like women's rights, the ethnic conflict, tsunami rehabilitation and poverty have been addressed in different stage.
"The goal of forum theatre is not a methodology of how a situation can end differently but it is dependant on the local people and their attitude towards it by changing mentalities," he said.
The skit that was staged recently revolved around the main actor, Kumar who as a joke among his friends, forwards a random SMS to some of his friends where it tells people to boycott movies made by South Indian actors who do not support Sri Lanka in the terrorist war. This has a dramatic effect when the authorities assume he is a terrorist and arrests him.
His best friend Ashan on the other hand, has the problem of supporting Kumar in his hour of need since he has to save face and oblige with his family's wishes since his father is a renowned businessman.
The climax in the play is the fact that Ashan, who is dating a Hindu Tamil girl says "Would you help out if it was me?" The forum theatre gave an insight as to how people can think in many ways by a small trigger and how these consequences can be damaging.
'Derana Dream Star' finals on Jan. 9
Derana's much talked about reality programme, 'Derana Dream Star' will come to a final at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium on January 9 beginning at 6.30 p.m.
The final round will comprise three contestants as Sachintha Devanarayana from Kelaniya was voted out on Sunday. The final three are Milinda Sandaruwan from Kurunegala, Udesh Indual from Kaluthara and Nilupuli Dilhara from Nittambuwa.
According to a Derana spokesman, the final will take form of a grand live musical extravaganza with the 96 participants who took part in the programme performing at the event. The winner will be given Rs. two million and a car worth Rs. 2.8 million.
He or she will also get a chance to launch a song album sponsored by the television channel.
The second and third finalists will be given cash prizes along with opportunities to record an album.
The final 16 contestants will also receive valuable gifts and an album comprising a collection of their songs.
Well-known percussionists Ravibandu Vidyapathi, Chandana Wickramasinghe and Krishanthi Radhika will choreograph the event while Athula Adikari and his band will provide music. Nirosha Virajini, Rohana Bogoda and Keerthi Pasquel who make up the judging panel will comment.
Talented actor, Amila Abeysekara will compere the finals of 'Derana Dream Star'.
Preperations for 'Derana Dream Star' season two is also underway with applications being called in. The team had already received twice the amount of applications they got for season one.
Those interested can send their application to: Producer, 'Derana Dream Star' season two, P.O. Box 699, Colombo.
Suvisi Buduvaru to be launched
Ven. Meevanapalane Rathanasara Thera's latest book on Buddhism Suvisi Buduvaru will be launched at Dayawansa Jayakody Book Exhibition Hall, Colombo 10 on January 6.
The book brings to the reader hitherto unknown information about the 24 Buddhas who predicted that Prince Siddhartha would be Gauthama Buddha.
Suvisi Buduvaru is a Dayawansa Jayakody Publication.
Dummalawarama at Maharagama
Dummalawarama directed by Ranjith de Alwis will be staged at the Maharagama Youth Centre in aid of Sri Lanka Army Woman Association on January 9 at 3.30 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. Gamini Hettiarachchi, Sarath Wimalasiri, Manohari Wimalatunga, Upul Weerasinghe (Upul mama), Anura Srinath, Anura Mapitigama, Tharaka Adikari, Roshan Ondaatchi and Upul Keerthisena make up the cast. The music is directed by Visharadha Edward Jayakody.
VOTE for the short film festival
It was not so long ago when we enjoyed long-hour movies in the darkness. Our lives are now becoming too demanding to devote precious time for such entertainment. We have now started admiring the short way; they are sweet in their own way. So dawned the 2009 on January 1 with VOTE short film festival.
Nimal Lakshapathiarachchi, the backseat man of the festival, defined VOTE as the spotlight to flash the isle's short film scene.
"Short films are still a novel concept to Sri Lanka. Our plan is to take the talented short film director into the limelight and give them what they deserve. I should thank Dialog and Citi Hitz for sponsoring an event like this," Lakshapathiarachchi said.
Sugathapala Senerath Yapa is the Sri Lankan pioneer in short films, who clinched many international awards for his talents. The Senerath Yapa period was followed by many, but only a few could capture the creative depth. It was in 2005 that Sri Lanka had first experienced a short film festival called 'Short Notes' with the distinguished participation of Dr. Lester James Peries. The festival featured 16 films by 15 directors, who were guided by Prasanna Vithanage, Mahendra Perera and the Kelaniya University.
The festival was the driving force for the 'Youth New Wave'. The 2008 international film festival was held in December with the great filmmaker of India Padma Vibhushan Dr Adoor Gopalakrishnan gracing the occasion. Some of 'Youth New Wave' films are featured in VOTE festival as well.
The 'Short Notes' team formed 'Young Filmmakers' and held 'Guerilla Film Festival' in a number of universities. 'Young Filmmakers' bucked the trend and it was to be followed by many Christian and Buddhist short films.
The short film has reached a turning point: that is called VOTE featuring 10 short films.