ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 06

Saying thank you with an assortment of dance

"Crossroads of Dance” Presented by Nelung Dance Academy.

Reviewed by Charmaine Vanderkoen Mendis

Niloufer Pieris, founder of the Nelung Dance Academy presented “Crossroads of Dance”, an evening of traditional and innovative choreography. The performance was described as a “Tribute to Teachers” and showcased the talents of young dancers encouraging them to explore new avenues through the medium of Dance.

Niloufer, a distinguished dancer herself was a pioneer in the demanding discipline of ballet at a time when Asians were unheard of on the European ballet scene. As a young girl, encouraged by her family she was determined to pursue her dream of becoming a ballerina. After much striving and many disappointments she spent a successful two years at The Royal School of Ballet, then a further spell at the Legat School and another two years in Paris totalling 10 years of intense training, that enabled her to finally join a ballet company in Germany. A long hard road but she survived and arrived. Her own example is itself an inspiration to the young dancers she is promoting.

The opening item was a tribute to Ouida Keuneman, dancer and artist, who at great personal cost has pursued a career in the arts with dedication and singleness of purpose. Her abstract painting “Mosaic of Life” was the inspiration for “Crossroads of Dance”, so it was apt that this painting formed the backdrop to this dancing tribute from Mohan whose inspiration Ouida has been. In a touching gesture, Niloufer led Ouida on stage while the dancers wove themselves around her in appreciative movement.

Mohan is a fine dancer with a cleanly defined line, always conscious of finishing every movement with poise. His strong masculine movements are tempered with just the right touch of grace. His strength and competence were evident in the “Eradi Vannama” a traditional Kandyan item, reminiscent at times of a youthful Chitrasena. Along with his two sisters, he also paid tribute to their father in an item entitled “Avarjana” (Reminiscence). It was spirited and well executed to the accompaniment of some inspired drumming.

In sheer contrast, petite fairy like Wendy Perera treated us to classical ballet as it should be danced, gracefully, meticulously, caringly. Excerpts from Tchaikovsky, Bach and Chopin were her choices of music. The Swan Lake item was an extract from the ballet where Wendy danced the role of one of the little swans from the quartette.

Currently, pursuing a BA Hons. course in ballet, Wendy shows much promise. Her considerable talent will reach maturity only when she develops both her skills and her physique by dedication and hard work. I have no doubt she has the will to become a fully fledged ballerina with international recognition. I wish her all success.

Mohan’s attempts at creative modern dance were quite innovative, especially his "Black and White". Mohan in white, using free style dance movements effectively contrasted with Ranjith’s acrobatic display of a martial art presented as a dance sequence. Each artiste being competent in his own discipline, this item was one of the best in the programme.

Rangika, who trained as a Kandyan dancer, has now commendably decided to pursue a course of training in Classical Ballet. Is this an experiment or career change? Judging from his Gajaga Vannama in full Ves regalia, danced somewhat disastrously to recorded music, he has now to decide in which direction he wants to go. Whilst appreciating the difficulty a trained Kandyan dancer will have, in studying classical ballet seriously, he should recognise that he cannot do both equally well. One or the other, perhaps even both techniques will suffer.

Rangika’s ballet item, though shaky and tentative at times, showed that he has the potential with hard work to become a serious ballet dancer, if that is what he wants. To me it was apparent that his affinity was towards ballet and the other creative forms of dance. The two items choreographed by Rangika were described in the programme as a fusion of Kandyan and Kathak. I believe Kathak should read Kathakali as I detected no Kathak movements in the compositions. “Eagle and Girl” was aesthetically pleasing, well executed by Rangika and partner.

“Cross Over”, composed by Mohan, was danced exclusively by the men. It was refreshing to see so many men on stage doing a fusion item rather than traditional Ves. With greater attention and awareness of patterns and spaces, and with more rehearsals, this could become a most effective item.

Niloufer paid her own personal light-hearted tribute to her father by dancing with Toni Fernandez to “Once in a Lifetime” sung by Frank Sinatra and Gladys Knight. A total deviation from the rest of the programme her exuberance and easy style were much appreciated by the audience.

In conclusion, considering the hard work and commitment that surely went into this production, it was sad to note the poor attendance. Perhaps a dance recital is not a sufficiently fashionable event to be seen at. However, Niloufer and the other dancers can take heart in the fact that the audience comprised mainly dancers and dance teachers and others truly interested in the work of the Nelung Academy. The enthusiastic applause at the end of each item was ample proof of that. Be assured Niloufer, that there are many of us who appreciate your effort.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.