Entertainment with a splash

By Smriti Daniel, Pix by M. A. Pushpa Kumara

The Little Mermaid will be exchanging the ocean for the Visakha swimming pool this January. The school's reputed water ballet and dance teams intend to become partners in the telling of Ariel's story. Using music from Disney's animated film, and accompanied by dancers, the Visakha girls have adapted the script to suit a water ballet – the first to be staged in their beautiful new swimming pool. And expect to find a number of them in it – the sizable cast includes nearly 50 students, 30 of whom will be in the water.

Rovini Illukkumbura Anushka Gunawardena

For Rovini Illukkumbura, the number of performers has turned this into a trial by fire. The Little Mermaid marks the directorial debut of this former student of the Visakha. Having served as captain for the two years before she passed out from school, Rovini is now training her younger protégés in the art of water ballet. Ranging from students in the third grade to those in twelfth grade, she says her charges also possess different levels of skill – some are beginners while others are practically professionals.

Deethri Samarajeewa first began studying water ballet 6 years ago. Since then she has travelled extensively, competing in both Hong Kong and Thailand, and participating in both the Asian Games and the Japan Open. The 17-year-old will play the wicked sea witch Ursula. Joining her in the water is Elisha Gomes who plays Ariel, Charya Dharmadasa as Prince Eric, Malveena Jayawardena as Flounder and Limashi Kosgoda as Sebastian. The one thing all of them have in common is that they can hold their breath – for a really long time.

As with ballet, water ballet is a demanding art form. Part sport, part dance it requires a strong yet graceful swimmer. While making it look effortless is half the battle, sticking your leg straight up into the air in synchronisation with 30 other people is the rest of it. The process is a beautiful combination of gymnastics, ballet and swimming and demands grace as well as impeccable timing.

The girls usually work with counts, but Rovini says this time around they're doing it to the words of the songs. It's a decision that's difficult to argue with. The Little Mermaid has long been acknowledged one of Disney's masterpieces. Songs like "Part of Your World," and "Kiss the Girl" are favourites with both the young and old. But it's "Under the Sea" that is Limashi's favourite. In her role as Sebastian the crab, she will join the other creatures of the ocean in what promises to be an extravaganza of colour and movement.

Keep an eye on the dancers and actors outside the pool as well, because they'll be telling parts of the story. Under the direction of Anushka Gunawardena and Hashani Warnapura, nearly 20 students will stay dry and out of the water, but expect the action going on by the poolside to reflect what's happening in the water and vice-versa.

The Little Mermaid will be staged on January 9 and 10 at the Visakha Vidyalaya Pool from 7:30pm onwards. Tickets are priced at 500/- and 1000/- and are currently on sale at the Pool Complex. Media sponsors for the event are TNL Radio and The Sunday Times.

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