TV Times

Chalana, a forerunner for Edinburgh Fest
By Susitha R. Fernando

'Chalana', a concert to showcase latent talents of a group of children from the suburbs will go on the boards at 6.30 pm on October 4 at Elphinstone theatre, Maradana. Organised by Arakavila Dance and Theatre Foundation, the show is directed and choreographed by Janaki Hill and it will be forerunner for world renowned Edinburough Fringe Festival-2009 in Scotland. 'Chalana' will be the only Sri Lankan representation for the world's biggest art festival with the participation of thousands of artistes around the world from August 7 to 31, 2009.

Jayani Koshala, Janaki Hill and Rukshala Roshini in an act of ‘Chalana’

Arakavila, 30 km away from the capital is famous for its talent for dance and theatre. And the show will comprise dancing styles like traditional Sri Lankan, traditional Indian, contemporary, physical dance and theatre. The colour and variety will be added to the show with short theatrical performance, an introduction to each dancing performance. The theatrical presentation is a description of how Sri Lankan society and specially its younger generation got lost with popular cultures of the West overlooking the value of traditional art and culture.

The 18-member group from age 12 to 25 years from Arakavila village will get the rare opportunity to compete with many international cultural performers at the world's largest open arts festival which is also considered as the Greatest Show on Earth.

"This will be a good exposure to these children to see the world and what is happening around us," Janaki Hill, the pioneer of the show said. The children were selected from a series of leadership projects under the title "Diriya Daruwo" conducted in a number of rural schools.

"These children have real talent. But unfortunately like some flowers they wither even without blossoming out. Our aim was to bring the attention of the world to these underprivileged children who are going to become leaders of tomorrow," Janaki said describing her aim.

Janaki Hill

"In fact some of the veteran dancers who heard about the journey came to me saying that we as experienced dancers would do a good show representing the country," she said. But most of them have already taken part in international world performances and it is necessary that these youngsters will get the opportunity.

All the dancing items in 'Chalana' and the show in Scotland was directed and choreographed by Janaki and she was supported by Samantha Wijesinghe in the theatrical performances. "However the show at Edinburgh will be slightly changed with few items of local dances like 'Gemi Netum' (Village dances) and etc.

Janaki, an experienced dancer and actress has performed both here and abroad. She has studied theatre and dance from India, Canada and Scotland and her first such show was 'Expressions of Life' in 2005.

Hailing from Arakavila, Padukka she started the 'Arakavila Dance Theatre Foundation' in order to uncover the latent talent of children in the area. Wife of Peter Hill, former Chief Executive Officer of Sri Lankan Airlines and present CEO of Oman Airlines, the couple have launched projects to uplift the living, educational standards and promote talent of children in the area.

The couple has constructed a building for Arakavila Isipathana College, the school of Janaki and other buildings for the temple. Peter and Janaki are presently helping a number of parentless children in the area looking after their entire education and well-being.

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