They danced to help cataract patients

Saturday, 1 September 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Pix courtesy Project21Photography

By D.C. Ranatunga

It was a most absorbing evening watching the maiden performance by a group of Sri Lankan youth from the newly-formed Maathra Dance Studio in Sydney, Australia. 

They had just completed six months and their performance of a fusion of Sri Lanka’s traditional and contemporary dances was a reflection of their talent and the hard work they had put in, as well as the dedication and the commitment of their tutors – Sasani Jayasinghe and Dylan Weerasekera. 

Both Sasani and Dylan had learnt dancing back in Sri Lanka not so long ago. Both had moved to Sydney to continue their studies. Sasani is reading for her Bachelor’s degree in Teaching. Dylan has completed his first degree.

It all started with the enthusiastic response from members of the Youth Group of Lankaramaya temple when Sasani trained them to participate in the Katina Pinkama procession last year. They rallied round Sasani when she mooted the idea of forming a dance group. Regular training sessions started and soon they were ready to go public.

Sasani hailing from Colombo teamed up with Dylan from Kurunegala and trained the youngsters. They planned an evening of dances once they were confident that the students were well versed in the different aspects of dancing. Both of them would also perform.

The proceeds were to be used for a worthy cause. They found that patients in the North Western Province found it difficult to undergo cataract surgery due to poverty. Kurunegala Teaching Hospital was contacted and it was arranged to donate lenses for the needy patients from the proceeds of the first performance. The concert, ‘Maathra 2018’ started with ‘Pooja’ following the Kandyan dance tradition. Little kids gave a good start to the wide range of dances performing to the tune of the popular song, ‘Kurullane nubalage santhosaya’. Well-known themes of Kuveni, ‘Ukussa’ and ‘Hansa’ coupled with contemporary styles made it a lively evening.    

The hard life of the fishing folk has been portrayed in two songs titled ‘Hoiys’ – the first from the Chitrasena ballet ‘Karadiya’ six decades ago. Pandit Amaradeva composed and sang the song written by Magama Sekera which became an instant hit. The second is the one by Bhatiya & Santhush with Umariya giving a fine start. The second song was presented in dance form at ‘Maatra 2018’ creating quite an impact.

There is a big gap between ‘Aarichhci Borichchi’ sung by NaradaDisasekera in the film ‘Getawarayo’ (1964) to ‘Sanda Nidanna’ by the new generation singer Raveen Kanishka in the teledrama ‘Deveni Inima’ now being telecast. While we still enjoy the former, Raveen has made his mark as a talented singer with the latter. Both dances based on the two songs were enjoyed by all. No dance concert is complete today without at least a glimpse of Bollywood. ‘Maatra 2p018’ was no exception. A traditional Kathak dance was not forgotten.  It’s encouraging to see young ‘Sri Lankan Australians’ so enthusiastic about Sri Lanka’s dance forms which are highly rated whenever our dance troupes perform abroad. Young tutors like Sasani and Dylan deserve the support of the Sri Lankan community in their task of maintaining our heritage in their own small way.  Those who turned up for the inaugural effort went back quite satisfied with the performance of the youngsters. It was undoubtedly a satisfying moment for the two young tutors.