The differently abled bring new life to graceful Swan Lake

By Megara Tegal, Pix by J. Weerasekera

As he nimbly climbed the scaffolding while it slid across the stage, the audience sat on the edge of their seats uncertain as to whether the differently abled actor would make it to the top. The adroit protagonist however, dispelled their doubts as he scrambled up using only his upper body, relates the director of CentreStage Productions, Jehan Aloysius.

This is Jehan’s latest production An Inspired Swan Lake performed by a differently abled cast along with the CentreStage Productions’ theatrical crew.

The ballet, or more accurately ‘body narrative’ as Jehan terms it was enacted for a small audience last year. He describes body narrative as “a form of movement that deconstructs the rule-governed forms of dance, such as ballet, which are constructed for ‘able’ bodies. As a result, a new form of movement and dance evolves from the identification of the ‘disabled’ participant’s transformed body which may include new ‘appendages’ such as crutches and wheelchairs.

Thus, new positive and creative signifiers are attached to these ‘appendages’ as they create images and movements of lyrical beauty and strength.”

The play was performed before a small audience in October of last year and was featured on the CNN and BBC website. What makes ‘An Inspired Swan Lake’ impressive is that the lead roles are played by young soldiers who have lost their limbs in the line of duty.

They had joined the production while still in the physical recovery phase, which helped them gain psychological reassurance as well.“I was in a mentally low state after the injury,” says Thusitha Wimalasooriya who plays the lead role of Nicholas, adding “I never thought I’d be capable of doing this.” Thusitha lost his right limb in August 2008, and in February 2009 he was gracefully gliding in dance as he rehearsed with the Centre Stage Productions crew.

The performers from the Ranaviru Sevana Rehabilitation Camp had little or no previous experience in dance and theatre, but CentreStage Productions has helped them transform into remarkable performers. Having helped the young soldiers emotionally and physically, Jehan also hopes this production would inspire others who are differently abled, as it did Indika Bandara.

Awestruck by the play, Indika, attended both performances of ‘An Inspired Swan Lake’, when it was first staged late last year. He didn’t think he could perform as well as those on stage but having met with Jehan and later joined the cast, Indika surprised himself as he discovered his capabilities in dance and acrobatics.

An Inspired Swan Lake, a modern fairytale set in the 80’s is a combination of the memorable music of Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake based on the original ballet scenario. CentreStage Productions and Jehan are working in partnership with One Trust Sri Lanka, an organisation that supports children affected by conflict.

The play is part of the StageHands Project which is the humanitarian arm of CentreStage Productions. The ballet will be staged for the last time at the Lionel Wendt Theatre from March 5 – 7. Tickets are priced at Rs. 300 (balcony), 500, 750, 1000 and 1500. Media partners for the event are Gold FM, the Sunday Times, Daily Mirror and Colombo Spirit. The official print partner is Sky Print Solutions.

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