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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

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Mung Mama Nove, an endearing children's ballet

A repeat performance of the Children's ballet Mung Mama Nove was at the Lionel Wendt Auditorium recently. Presented by the Lak Uruma Arts Foundation; conceived, choreographed and directed by Mohan Sudusinghe.

Mohan Sudusinghe is an accomplished Kandyan/contemporary dancer who also trains children (boys and girls) in the art of traditional dancing. His ballet provided them with an opportunity to demonstrate their skills on stage. Over 30 children participated in the production, which was one hour long and had a captivating thematic form and structure.

It takes hard work to conceive and stage a children's ballet, and one must appreciate all the creative energy and concentrated effort that went into this production. Thanks to some fine team work the ballet, which revolved around nature, birds, and animals, was both visually interesting and aesthetically satisfying.

Dancers depicting swans

The protagonist is Tuffy Duck, a silly creature suffering from a peculiar identity crisis. She does not want to be a duck because she envies the other birds in the forest. She borrows a neck from a swan, feathers from a peacock, and wings from an eagle and struts around feeling quite pleased with her new physical identity, which is neither fish nor fowl.

Then she has a nightmarish experience akin to a close encounter of the third kind. She has strayed away from the other ducks and finds herself face to face with a lone wolf, who fancies having her for dinner. After performing a ritualistic dance, he circles her and closes in for the kill. Just as he is about to sink his fangs into her lovely swanlike neck, she is rescued by her companions, who implore him to spare her life. The predator, though ravenously hungry, has a magnanimous heart and lets her go, thereby forfeiting a potentially sumptuous meal. (The wolf is not an evil creature after all.)

Tuffy Duck cannot believe her good fortune and is beholden to her friends for the rest of her life. She promptly reverts to her original identity and dances rapturously with the other members of the flock who, led by Mother Duck, rescued her from the jaws of death. All is well that ends well. Perhaps the moral of the story is to be yourself and cultivate your inner being without trying to assume a false identity.

The storyline with its enchanting forest setting was intelligent and had enough substance to drive a one-hour production. The director should be commended for having created a ballet that was absorbing as well as pleasing to the eye. The show's artistic aspects deserve special mention. The set depicting a patch forest with trees and rolling hills in the background was simple and elegantly designed. The music had a rich rhythmic quality which blended well with the choreography. The lighting was quite subtle and effectively conveyed the gradations in mood and ambience woven into the storyline.

The costumes and make-up were splendid and added color and charm to the overall spectacle, which possessed all the key ingredients of a children's ballet. The director by and large succeeded in capturing the spirit and essence of the ballet through some imaginative choreography. The dancing overall was satisfactory but a tad repetitive at times.

The wolf, the eagle, Mother Duck and Tuffy Duck had flair but could do with a little more technique. The show on the whole was very neat and well-rehearsed, but a general comment is that the dancers (with a few exceptions) were slightly lacking in grace, posture and carriage. The ballet was good but had the dancing been stronger, it would have been outstanding.

 

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