Fairy tale goes ballet

Deanna School of Dancing presents the classic, Beauty and the Beast
By Natasha Fernandopulle and Amreen Ameen. Pix by Gemunu Wellage

It is the story of an intelligent young woman, Belle, who is ridiculed by those in her town for being a bookworm. She also has to fight off the advances of the arrogant Gaston. To get away from all the madness, Belle escapes to a garden of roses.

Her father, meanwhile, has got lost in the woods and been captured by the Beast – once a handsome prince but turned into a monster by a witch. So Belle sets off to rescue her father.

However, upon seeing Belle, the Beast, completely taken up by her, agrees to set her father free on one condition that she stays with him forever.

Belle soon realizes that the Beast has a tender side to him, while his servants, the Clock, the Teapot and the Candlestick, see Belle as their salvation. For, if the Beast and Belle fall in love before he turns 21, the curse will be broken.

So the story unravels as the Deanna School of Dancing presents the classic, Beauty and the Beast.
“The story is based on the famous Walt Disney version but has been adapted to suit a ballet,” says the school’s Artistic Director/Choreographer, Natasha Jayasuriya, explaining that this production was done over 12 years ago as well.

Beauty and the Beast was chosen as they needed to involve the students in a production they would enjoy and could relate to, Natalie Jayasuriya, Head of the Senior School and Natasha’s sister, said. Natasha and Natalie are the daughters of Deanna, the school’s founder.

We have incorporated the original Walt Disney soundtrack and to bring out the ballet element created a garden scene where the music will be by Strauss, says Natalie, adding that there will be bees, butterflies, birds and roses while Belle is in the garden.

The costumes have been created to suit the ballet version while the stage sets will be handled by Ahkry Ameen. There are three casts for the three nights of the show, as there are 450 children involved in the production and all get a chance to be on stage, says Natasha, while the 10 to 12-year-olds will be performing on all three nights. “We have had to go in for an intense month of training. It’s always a challenge, but an enjoyable one.”

This will be the first time sisters Natasha and Natalie will be collaborating for one of the Deanna School’s productions. “It will be light-hearted entertainment where any child or any ballet lover would be able to enjoy,” says Natalie, adding, “it’s for the whole family.”

As soon as the students become seniors they leave to university, some even to study dance, so we need to get them before they leave, she says, explaining that their mother usually trains the students for a performance once in two years.

“Our ambition is to have a performing arts studio which will include dance, singing and drama,” adds Natalie. The main roles will be played by senior students, with Bharatha de Silva as the Beast and Shonaka Ranatunga as Belle.

“I have been with the Deanna School of Dancing since the age of five,” says Shonaka for whom this is not her first major role. She played the lead role in The Nutcracker in 2007. “This production has a lot of advanced choreography and the students are from a wide age group,” she says, adding, “therefore, it will be a diverse concert and will be something different to look forward to.”

“Yes, it’s a lot of hard work because it is a matter of acting and dancing,” she concedes, adding that it is all about how you express yourself without words.

Roshalie Fernando who plays a dual role as the Clock and one of Gaston’s bimbos says, “I play both roles on all three nights. I have been with the Deanna School of Dancing since I was two years old and I have seen myself progress a lot since I started. It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work at the same time and we hope those watching will enjoy it.”

Sleeping Beauty, Swan Princess, Aladdin and The Nutcracker are among the earlier performances by the Deanna School of Dancing. This school, set up in 1980, is different in all aspects, say Deanna’s daughters. “She treats the students like her own kids, so we have huge footsteps to follow,” they add.
Beauty and the Beast goes on the boards at the Bishop’s College auditorium on July 28, 29 and 30, at 7 p.m.

Tickets are available at the Deanna School of Dancing, 30/63H, Longden Place, Colombo 7. For details please contact phone: 2504771/2.

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