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Vajira, the legend Chitrasena left behind

Though she can be compared to Odette/Odile of the Swan Lake, Vajira remains the mythical supreme of Sri Lankan dancing. She is in equal par with the best of all ballerinas around the world. She still is our own shining star second to none.

Vajira and late Chitrasena were like a pair of steel scissors, cutting sharply through the vast arena of Kandyan and low-country dance in its magnificent aura.

Vajira as the lovely, vulnerable Swan Princess, Damayanthi in Nala-Damayanthi, the ballet choreographed by Chitrasena who also danced the lead role as Nala.

Like a pair of scissors, both depended on each other for excellence and now that the scissors have fallen apart, Vajira till holds herself in defiance of trials she has to face without her immortal mentor and holds her rightful place in our world of art.

Sri Lanka's prima ballerina, one of the greatest dancers in the world is our country's national heroine. We all remember her as the dancer of tremendous power and vitality when she took the centre stage with Chitrasena. Endowed with a feline quality, Vajira had such stage personality, it was a joy to watch her and learn so much from her. Her triumphs are so over-bearing, its smell of success still linger on her precious art even after three generations. I still visualise her as Odette/Odile of Swan Lake when she danced Damayanthi in the ballet Nala Damayanthi, choreographed by Chitrasena who also danced the title role with her. I too had the priveledge to dance with them as a swan, after which I moved over to Western classical ballet.

Vajira had the great ability to sink her own personality into any character she danced that made all her ballets come alive. Her supple back and long eloquent arms played a major role in perfecting her dance. Sharp, oriental features and black tresses made her wholesome. Vajira lacked nothing as she went from one triumph to the other leaving audiences spellbound.

With all her super-power, energy, great leaps she never losy the feminine aura. Always radiant and passionate about her dancing, she still keeps up the tempo even after turning seventy seven years of age. The winsome smile has never changed nor the sparkle in her eyes. She has retained her own identity and never faulted in her career even after Chitrasena bid her goodbye.

'The form, the form alone is eloquent

A nobler yearning never broke her rest

Than but to dance and sing, be gaily drest

And win all eyes with all accomplishment....

- Alfred Lord Tennyson

Her country's traditional dance is what is foremost in her mind and she guards it with it with passion and fire never letting the form pollute it from outside influence however tempting it could. She has danced her history etching in every mind the glories of Sri Lankan heritage.

As with most Asian dancing, there is a strong religious element and Kandyan dance is no exception though not particularly performed in temples but at temple ceremonies and perahera. Unlike in the low country dance, a special feature in Kandyan dance is the elaborate costume both for men and women along with bejewelled head dresses. Exacting physical demands are needed and it came naturally to Vajira which she passed down to her equally talented daughter, Upekha.

'Some glory in their birth; some in their skill

Some in their wealth; some in their body's force'....

- Sonnet XCI (Shakespeare)

Vajira did not stop at dancing but became the great teacher at her dream-home.

The Chitrasena-Vajira Dance Foundation as it is know today, and continued to choreograph the ballets boarded there. Like at the Royal Ballet in London, this dance centre is brimming with future talent and today's dancers who keep the torch burning in loving memory of their great Master, Chitrasena. In this manner, it is a tribute they shower upon her for her dedication, commitment and grit. The open air theatre is like Mount Olympus with its Muse who tread upon it daily with her twinkling feet what never rests. Such is Vajira's passion for her beloved art that took her through a long journey not on our soil alone but in other countries too.

I will always remember my teacher of her great performance in Nala-Damayanthi and Karadiya where classicism was at its peak. While she took upon herself the development of Sri Lanka's traditional culture, the mantle of which Chitrasena passed on to her, this great teacher has upheld its immortality and gained momentum with passing of years. Vajira still imparts her poetic precision to all her students and her own generations of dancers.

The breath-taking energy Vajira possessed both in mind and body can never be parallel to any local dancer. On stage, she had the hypnotic effect on the audience, that still trails in her stride and the aura intoxicate and bring memories back in flashing arabesque visions. That is the magic of this great Muse of dance.

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