Revealing Ravens

By Tahnee Hopman, Pix by Lekha Edirisinghe

In January 2002, Kapila Palihawadana established naTANDA with two intentions, one being to provide dance education and training for the underprivileged; and the second to shatter common perceptions.

Eight years down the line, if the consistently enthusiastic response of the audience is anything to go by, Kapila has fulfilled his intentions. “I began,” he recalls, “inspired by a desire to prove that performances of a high standard are not accomplished only by performers of the West.

Having completed five successful productions to date, the dancers of naTANDA eagerly await presenting their next venture- 'Ravens'- to be held at The British School auditorium on March 28, 30 and 31 at 7. 30 pm.

The troupe at naTANDA agrees that each dance; each performance is deeply personal. 'Ravens'- however, seems to be even closer to home, and to strike a deeper chord with these dancers. Against the backdrop of a sometimes unfriendly and often challenging environment- not unlike the setting for this particular performance- the dancers appear to be as resilient and adaptable to challenges as the community of ravens they portray.

“Each dancer has his or her fair share of problems,” explains Kapila,” but the level of dedication and commitment they have shown towards taking trouble to perfect their art, is absolutely amazing.”

'Ravens'- the result of months of research, follows unexpected, different aspects of the life of the ravens who are most often seen as an annoyance, swarming around the garbage dumps of the city and suburbs. “We not only spent hours watching the birds,” recalls Malith Upendra a member of the troupe, “we also videoed them and watched the videos many times in order to learn more and to devise new moves.

This taught us a great deal about ravens and we realized that they are thoroughly misunderstood birds and there is far more to them than what meets the eye.”

“In comparison to our past performances, 'Ravens' is more fast paced and energetic,” explains Dakshika Bandara, joining in. “One of the main areas of focus in the performance is the portrayal of strong emotions and we have worked hard to bring these emotions out in our dancing.”

'Ravens' also differs from its predecessors in its inclusion of schoolchildren from Hindu College, St. Joseph’s Girls’ College Nugegoda and Hillwood to make up a troupe of around 110 dancers.

“This is part of naTANDA’s initiative to expose more people to contemporary dance genres,” explains Malith. We believe it is extremely important that more people have an understanding of what dancing is really about- the commitment and effort that is required- and we are working hard to help create an environment in which more respect is given to dancers.

Excited about the performance which will open tonight, Kapila wishes to thank the Goethe Institut, The Prince Claus Foundation, The Commonwealth Foundation, The Overseas School Colombo and Wendy Ells for the support which has been extended in numerous ways.

Tickets for the show priced at Rs. 2000, 1500, 1000 and 500 are available at the office of the British School auditorium.

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