A production by naTANDA is almost always the result of a simple, real life experience. 'Ravens' - the upcoming performance by the dance company, is no different.
Sitting out on a verandah in Batticaloa, Kapila Palihawadana-Founder and Director of naTANDA- was confronted with the sight of a crow observing him. “He looked extremely intelligent,” he recalls, “and he continued to stare at me for quite some time.” It was at this point that Kapila’s fascination with ravens began. “Shortly afterwards I read a book by Bernd Heinrich called The Mind of the Raven and that stirred my interest even more.”
What followed was an eight month long process of putting together a dance theatre production which would mirror the world of ravens: the obvious- the continuous struggle for existence; the garbage dumps and the thievery; and the not so obvious-of love, the feeling of community and caring for their own kind. What Sri Lanka’s premier modern dance troupe wishes its audience to see is something beyond the common perception of these common birds.
Taking the stage of The British School Auditorium from March 28-31, the performance of Ravens is divided into eleven parts and follows the story of a group of ravens struggling to coexist in their messy, unfriendly environment.
As in the case of the initial inspiration for the production, the story which will unfold in 'Ravens' is the result of real life experiences. In order to produce an authentic perspective of the life of crows, the director and the dancers took a month off, during which time they visited the garbage dumps of Colombo and the suburbs, and observed with great interest, the subjects of their upcoming production.
“We did this also for inspiration to create moves which mirrored those of the ravens,” explains Kapila. “But more importantly, we did it to gain more insight into the minds of these birds- something we felt was vital in combining feeling and emotion with the dance moves we were to learn and practice.”
This aspect- of extensive research- is not uncommon to the naTANDA dance troupe. “Research is one of our most significant tools; in dance, as much as you have to fight with your own body, you must also fight with your brain. And the knowledge you gain from research equips you with the strength you need for that,” says Kapila.
Coupled with this strength is an innovative dance style which blends traditional dance elements with western dance techniques. “However, “reiterates Kapila, “we make it a point to not stick to established forms but try and identify new concepts and unique movements. This is the philosophy that we are guided by; and every dancer is encouraged to suggest new moves in the course of rehearsing for a production.
Established in January 2002, the goal of naTANDA is to encourage emerging talent and exposing the audience to contemporary dance while helping the dancers themselves to interact with one another more confidently.
“It was with this thinking that for the first time we have brought in the talent of school children from Hindu College, St. Joseph’s Girl’s College, Nugegoda and Hillwood College, to dance with the fourteen dancers of naTANDA,” says Kapila adding that the experience has been educational for the entire cast which comprises 110 members.
“There is always something to learn from dance,” he says, “and I am thankful to the Goethe Institut and Wendy Ells for generously giving us premises for our rehearsals. I am also extremely thankful for the support of the Prince Claus Foundation and the sponsorship of the Commonwealth Foundation.”
Approximately 80 minutes in duration, the show will begin at 7 30 pm. Tickets priced at Rs. 2000, 1500, 1000 and 500 are on sale at the office of The British School Auditorium.