They leap, twirl, and arch their backs with an agility that most of us can only dream of. Mahesh Umagiliya and Menaka Jayasuriya, founders of the Meranga Dance Academy are dancers with a passion for their art, evident in their every sweeping movement and graceful tilt of head.
The Meranga Dance Academy, the brainchild of these two friends, was established earlier this year to cultivate the love of dancing in anyone interested.
“We’ve been studying dancing for 15 years. This has always been one of our dreams,” says Menaka, breathless after their performance at the Western Province Aesthetic Resort to commemorate the beginning of their classes in Colombo.
The Dance Academy which was initially rooted in Kandana, conducts beginners’ courses in traditional Kandyan, low country dancing, creative dance drama and Bharatha Natyam as well as dancing courses parallel to the school curriculum, both in Kandana and Colombo. Their focus is the performance arts leaning toward entertainment as well.
“Our traditions run deep and our dances are rich and varied. People abroad are constantly amazed at the scope of diversity in our dance,” said Mahesh, adding that it was only in the technology involved in production that Sri Lanka needs to keep up.
‘Meranga’ which, in essence means ‘enchanting dance’ aims to live up to its name by providing dance for the soul. Elaborating that their doors are open to anyone above seven years of age, they hope to impart their extensive knowledge of all elements of dancing – from choreography to costumes to everything in between – to their students. “We invite people to come and dance. We want to create a new generation of dancers.”
Mahesh and Menaka, who were students of Vajira Chitrasena, remain indebted to their mentor. “She was my first teacher and second mother,” Mahesh said emphatically. “Not only did we learn about dancing, but we also learnt about life,” added Menaka, elaborating that coupled with their lessons and tours overseas, they gained invaluable exposure and experience.
They are deeply appreciative of their many teachers Upekha and Anjalika Chitrasena, Ravibandu Vidyapathi, Piyasara Shilpadhipathi and their friends and family for all the encouragement over the years which has helped them keep the flame alive.
Anyone interested can email the academy – email@example.com.