dancing days with Marjorie Sample
Alfreda de Silva
My story on our dancing days at Girton with the
unforgettable Marjorie Sample drew a response from the well-known
golfer Pam Fernando, nee de Vos. She had been one of Miss Sample's
young pupils who had not only enjoyed herself but also made a name
for herself at performances.
A dancing school
had been started by Doris Gratiaen Ondaatje, the mother of the famous
writer and Booker prize winner, Michael Ondaatje. When she gave
it up Marjorie Sample took it over. It was situated next to the
present swimming club in Colombo.
also taught at some schools and at the Suisse Hotel in Kandy.
very acrobatic as I was double-jointed," recalls Pam. At ten
or eleven years of age she had been the star at Miss Sample's show
held at the Regal Theatre. Her dance was 'La Poupee- the Doll'.
It brought her exciting reviews in the Press. She was acclaimed
as a 'living doll'. Pam says: "Miss Sample wanted to give me
private lessons but my mother could not afford them. So she drove
Miss Sample who paid for the petrol, to Girton and schools in Kandy
as compensation for the lessons.
a number of notable dancers of the Sample school. One of them was
Oosha who was much younger than her and soon became "the perfect
star". There was Yvonne Bradley, who much later started a Ballet
School with Pauline Wicks.
and her sisters Pat and Colleen were dancers. But it was Shelagh
who went on to establish herself as an outstanding teacher of dance.
She taught at Girton for a while, when Miss Sample was on leave,
and was well known for her sparkling sense of humour. She was just
as wonderful with the little ones as with her older pupls.
the Gadduon girls. They did acrobatic dancing. Shelagh, now Mrs.
Cotton lives in Sri Lanka though most of the others have emigrated.
(now Ingleton) was a splendid dancer. Pan remembers that so was
her sister Doreen. Timmy took over when Miss Sample left and ran
her own dancing school.
Babette and Pauline also took part in dance recitals presented by
Marjorie Sample who, according to Pam, 'had very little time for
regular meals, and lived on beer and chocolates!" The wonder
was that she was as slim as a reed.
To get back
to Pam's own part in Miss Sample's classes she recalls a Shirley
Temple contest where the first prize was school fees for one year.
There were two other prizes. The awards were for anyone who could
tap dance and sing 'Animal Crackers' as Shirley did.
Pam had short
hair like a boys' at the time, she says but did not want to perform
wearing a wig that resembled Shirley Temple's curly top, secretly
fashioned for her by her mother and Miss Sample. She regarded it
her performance was rated as one of the best, she lost to Yvonne
Foenander who looked her part. Pam came third. She was practising
for a solo item: 'Top Hat, White Tie and Tails', a la Fred Astaire
when her mother decided to board her at Bishop's College, and that
was the end of her dancing days. It was dificult to combine boarding
school and dancing. She turned instead to sports, excelling at them.
I recently had the privi lege of attending a con
cert at the
Concertgebouw, which according to statistics, is the most heavily
patronized concert hall in the world. The first half of the concert
belonged to Carla Leurs (violin) and Gerard Boeters (piano), who
played works by Beethoven, Debussy and Sarasate. This review is
confined to the second half, which belonged exclusively to Shani
Diluka, (her stage name) who played three challenging pieces by
Haydn (Sonata in D major, Hob. XVI/24), Chopin (Ballade No. 4 in
F minor, opus 52), and Rachmaninov (Variations on a Theme of Corelli,
was born and brought up in Monaco (her first language is French),
I was pleased to see her described as a Sri Lankan pianist in the
programme. It is interesting to speculate whether Shani is the first
South Asian (past or present) to have given a solo piano recital
at this prestigious institution.
The Haydn sonatas,
Hob. XVI:21-26, form a set of six written in 1773 and dedicated
to Prince Nikolaus. The fourth sonata, in D major, is noted for
its delicate texture and poetic undertones. In capturing the lofty
artistic elements of this sonata, which elude many a pianist, Shani
showed that she is in a class of her own. Her keen powers of interpretation
and inborn musicality were clearly evident in the way she handled
the subsidiary thematic material in the D major Allegro, the embellished
melody in the D minor Adagio, and the asymmetrical rhythm of the
principal theme in the final D major Presto. The Adagio, in particular,
was performed with rare sensibility.
Corelli-variations, his last work for solo piano, is associated
with the theme La Folia, as it appears in Corelli's twelfth violin
sonata. It is a work of epic proportions involving a central theme
surrounded by 20 variations dotted with cadenzas, where heightened
tension alternates with ecstatic release and a sonorous base forms
the core of exquisite melodic lines and forms; a work that even
virtuoso pianists (such as Pizarro) are reluctant to play without
the score, given the range of complex notes and interpretations
that have to be committed to memory. Shani took a risk in opting
to play without the score. But it paid off. Her deft and elegant
handling of the cadenzas was ample proof of her technical brilliance,
while her artistic interpretation succeeded in depicting the subtle
contrasts between variations as well the nuances of mood and texture
within variations. I particularly liked her passionate rendering
of the Intermezzo, her profoundly mystical interpretation of No.
8 (Adagio misterioso), and her touch of manic intensity in No. 13
aspect of the Corelli-variations is the manner in which it builds
up to a powerful emotional plateau and then builds down to a soft
and pensive coda. Shani played the Andante with quiet dignity and
concluded the passage on a deeply contemplative note. I imagine
this is how Rachmaninov would have wanted it, for he was simply
setting the stage for his next project, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
No. 4 (the last of the Ballades), with its lilting melody and contrasting
episodes of naive simplicity and filigree complication, is regarded
as one of his finest compositions. There are no afterthoughts here,
as is evident with some of the more intense episodes of Ballade
No. 2. I was intrigued as to why Shani chose to play the Chopin
piece after the Rachmaninov piece, considering that the latter tends
to leave the pianist mentally and physically drained. But she did
full justice to the Ballade. With her sublime touch and remarkable
intuitive skills, she gave a fine interpretation of its rich poetic
imagery and lyrical narrative passages. Perhaps, some day, she will
come to be known as a great interpreter of Chopin.
For her virtuoso
performance at the Concertgebouw, Shani Diluka received an extended
standing ovation. For the encore, she played a Brahms Intermezzo
and received yet another standing ovation. Young, beautiful and
immensely gifted -she's the kind of pianist who has the ability
to mesmerize the audience with her impeccable technique, sensuous
style, and remarkable stage presence.
Kala Korner by Dee Cee
A 'reluctant novelist' wins top award
Mahendra is a man of many parts. He plays several roles most effectively
- as an academic (he is head of Kelaniya University's Mass Com department),
journalist (he contributes regular columns to newspapers both in
English and Sinhala), broadcaster, dramatist and novelist. Many
are his achievements during the past few decades, the latest being
winning the coveted State Literary Award for the Best Sinhala Fiction
published last year.
He had written
'Niruwath Devivaru' (The Naked Gods) sometime back but had not shown
much interest in publishing it. "It was lying in a corner.
My family members as well as several of my friends who read it forced
me to publish it and I gave it to Godage's," Sunanda recalls.
It ended up winning the award.
revolves round the life story of a university don - a lecturer in
Philosophy - who finds it difficult to reconcile his personal life
with his academic life. He finds home life boring. "It is the
journey of a man who faces conflicting situations throughout life
that I have tried to portray," Sunanda says.
also been quite busy as a dramatist since the mid-sixties. Starting
with 'Geheniyak', a translation of Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen's
'Hedda Gabler' (1890), described as "a dark comedy about affectation
and pretension", his second play - 'Sayuren Aa Landa' was a
translation of Ibsen's 'Lady from the Sea'. His other plays were
'Jana Hatura', based on Ibsen's 'A Public Enemy', 'Pokuru Wessa',
an original play, 'Maga Maruvo', 'Chekov Sandyawa' - an experimental
play based on the life and works of Anton Chekov, 'Socrates' - an
award winning play on the life and philosophy of Socrates, and 'Aesop'.
record 16 State Literary Awards were won by Godage publications
In the award
list were Sunanda Mahendra's 'Niruwath Devivaru' (Novel), Nandana
Weerasinghe's 'Mahath Sanda Pini Bindeki' (Poetry), Piyasena Kahandagamage's
'Wanaratana' (Youth), Lucien Bulathsinhala's 'Peenavi Ran Malu'
(Drama), Bandara Wijesunga's 'Sulanga Vage Avidin' (Lyrics), Mahagama
Sekera's 'Sinhala Gandya Padya Nirmanayanhi Ridma Lakshana', &
Kulathilaka Kumarasinghe's 'Japan Natya Kalawa' (Assorted subjects),
G. S. B. Senanayake's 'Ramayanaya' (Assorted subjects - Translation),
Cyril C. Perera's 'Maitree Karunawa' (Short story - Translation),
Munidasa Senerat Yapa's 'Roma Lalanayanaya' (Novel - Translation),
and Shelton Arachchige's 'Sri Lankawe Nuthana Chitra Murti Kalawa'
(Best design and finish).
A journey towards female space
elected wom en local body representatives are quietly striving to
change power equations across India to benefit their respective
communities. Their priorities are different from mainstream politics.
They may be called naive or foolish, but many of them actually believe
that the time has come to take their lives, their resources and
their governance in their own hands. Some of them have even paid
a big price for their beliefs.
Little Republic' is a cinematic tribute to these women. The 90 minute
Hindi film will be screened with English sub-titles at the Russian
Centre on October 10 at 6.30 p.m. It is open to the public free
is an act of faith in the power of grassroot democracy, in the resilience
of women and in the indomitable strength of those called the 'low
caste'," says 40-year-old Delhi-based documentary film maker
Anwar Jamal of his debut feature.
The film is
set in a small village in Rajasthan, India, where the women and
the lower castes have little say. Four strong-willed women, however,
try to change things, and as the story unfolds, the village becomes
a universal microcosm of democracy, the events a parable for the
The high caste
men who dominate the village council, seek political power for their
selfish interests. The women on the other hand, believe political
power should be used to fulfil the needs of their community. In
their remote village in the desert of Rajasthan, the search for
water is their first priority.
The film is
about a journey - a journey through the desert towards a feminine
space where the four women, freed from the strict code of conduct
in the rural society relive their histories and draw strength from
at the World Film Festival, Montreal on August 29, 2002 and was
one among the three Indian films shown at the World Festival this
year. "It is the awakening of India's common people. It's a
multi-faceted concept, difficult to grasp, in a sub continent with
more than a billion people, with several great religions, 16 languages,
thousands of dialects and many castes," La Presse reviews say.
fusion music, the theme song of the film uses the poetry of Kabir,
a radical 15th century poet, whose irreverent verses ridicule all
forms of oppression, upholding the power of truth and love.
times, when the world mistrusts Islamic images, and when within
India, a climate of hatred is being built up, I have chosen to use
the legend of martyrdom of Hussein, (the prophet's grandson who
also believed in and fought for the principles of true democracy)
to lend a mystic backdrop to the uncompromising spirit of India's
new hope," Anwar Jamal says.
Jamal, a Muslim
is married to Hindu Sehjo Singh, also a film maker who scripted
the film based on a true incident that occurred in Madurai, India.
With a budget 200 times less than the 50 million rupee spectacular
Bollywoodian spectacle, Devadas, Swaraaj is a simple and discreet
film, yet effective in its message. Shot on a shoestring budget
in trying circumstances with actors and technicians who pitched
in primarily for the love of the medium, Swaraaj demonstrates to
young film-makers who might have real and relevant stories to tell
that there is a way forward if the spirit is willing.
by the Institute of Social Sciences, among others was filmed over
a 35 day schedule in colourful Rajasthan, one of the most caste-bound
and machismo states of India. "When I first arrived, people
there asked me what my caste was. I said that I was Muslim. I was
not even offered a cup of tea," Jamal recalls.
isn't a dry, preachy film," says the debutant director. "The
film is full of movement, music, and drama and every reel has over
has special relevance for Sri Lanka, that is yet to have a constitutional
provision of quota system for women in local bodies. In the absence
of equal opportunities for women in the decision making process,
women's participation has not been forthcoming, owing to several
factors. As a result, today in Sri Lanka, women in politics account
for hardly 2%, despite the fact that Sri Lanka ranks the highest
in the human development index in the South Asian region,"
says James Arputharaj, Executive Director, South Asia Partnership,
International (SAP-I). SAP-I which is organising the screening of
'Swaraaj' is currently working towards designing a training programme
to enhance political participation of women in the South Asian countries.
for South Asian women writers
women writers under the age of 40, are invited to apply to participate
in a project to provide a forum for South Asian women writers to
read, translate and discuss their work at the South Asian Women's
Writers Conference to be held in New Delhi in February 2003.
is a distinct genre within the South Asian literary spectrum, but
the barriers faced by women writers, irrespective of their political
stance, are considerable.
British Council offices in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and
Sri Lanka areworking with key partners to empower women writers.
of the project
o Writing from
the margins: -The emergence of forceful polemic writing on issues
like environment, human rights and social issues (e.g.dowry, rape,
boundaries and borders: -Linguistic, geographical, gender and caste/class
-between languages (including English), genres and oral /written
-by the state, the family, society and self
-contexts of publication and dissemination: reviewing and challenging
the contexts surrounding publishing decisions and increasing access
to new work.
o ability to
contribute to the core themes; willing and able to follow up afterwards
in Sri Lanka; CV, including publications ; international outlook,
good communicator; under 40 as at 31/01/03
close on Thursday, October 10
Council will sponsor up to two participants by providing international
travel and accommodation with meals (at a venue chosen by the organizers
in India) for the duration of the conference.
applicants are requested to send a brief covering letter explaining
how they fit the criteria and attaching their CV, to:
The Arts Manager