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8th August 1999

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Dance, dance and dance

By Carl Muller

They danced before the Governor of the Central Province on August 1. Mahamaya hall flamed and tasselled and echoed to the board-trod feet and acoustical drums. It was a pre-festival performance and success glowed on their faces. Surely they were ready - ready to wing their art to the banks of the blue Danube, to the home of Strauss.

Fourteen girls from Mahamaya and five boys from Dharmaraja will be Sri Lanka's newest dancing ambassadors when they leave tonight for Hungary's Summerfest International Folk Dance Festival to be held from August 11 to 20 at Szazhalombatta, on the banks of the Danube. The troupe comprising students offering Kandyan Dance as a subject in their schools, will present up to 15 items, and will be accompanied by Mahamaya's principal. R.W.I.K. Ratnayake, Vice Principal S.K. Jayasundera, a dancing teacher, a master from Dharmaraja and another from "Ranbima" as well as Damayanthi Sumithraarachchi, who will represent the parents of the young performers.

They will perform before 14 countries that gather at Szazhalombatta - the Nagaraksha, Gini Sisila, Mayura Vannama, Nanumurai, Kulu Natum, Lee Keli, Ves Natum and many others. There will be the Gajaga Vannama and a Pooja Natum with girls and boys together.

What is of special importance is that these children will also have the opportunity to showcase Sri Lanka at the Cultural House, set up their own mini- exhibition, talk of our history, geography, touristic delights, natural resources and culture.

The girls assure me they will really bear this country's image in their dress, their art, their pride, their bearing, making thousands know and warm to the true beauty and glory of this island.

There will be a Sri Lanka Day too - and the troupe will prepare and offer a typical Sri Lankan "hathmaluwa" to 50 international guests.

Excited? You bet they are! The festival programme has been so well organised that they are looking forward to the performances of so many other nations too - Hungarian dances, a visit to Europe's most exciting Iron Age site in the Archaeological Park, seeing Budapest and a cruise on the Danube.

On this cruise too, with the lights of Budapest filling the water with fireworks, they will play some of our popular recorded music (and show how well they can disco too!).

August 13 will be really special - our national flag held high, a speech, Namo Namo Matha, a special dance - all beginning with a proud flag parade and march and ending with the swirling dance of 650 artistes. It will be dance, dance, dance. Even an open-air performance at Margit Island, a fancy-dress party, street parades, a special knock-'em-for-six Dance Panorama, even special celebration of Hungary's Constitutional Day on August 20 and the final farewell performance on August 21.

And our girls and boys will have more to do as they leave for Austria the next day.

Our Austrian ambassador, C.E. Poolokasingham has made all arrangements for "the Mahamaya and Dharmaraja girls and boys" as his fax to the Deputy Chief of Protocol states. The troupe will arrive at Graz to perform there, tour the city, visit and be welcomed by the students of Karl Franzens University, see Styria and travel to Vienna to be welcomed by our ambassador and the Sri Lankan community there. The Austrian visit has been arranged in collaboration with the Sri Lanka-Austria Friendship Association.

At Mahamaya, I learned that every young performer goes with travel tickets paid for by his or her parents. The Old Girls' Association pitched in to provide costumes. Teachers have worked tirelessly and everything for the cultural and historical exhibition has been readied. It has been an immense exercise in goodwill and dedication with the country placed over all else, the country the leading light, the wellspring of inspiration.

And we wish them all joy, all success - these young girls and boys with the honest, sincere childheart love for their land, who will surely do much to carry this countly into the hearts of many.

It will be churlish not to give you their names - our young ambassadors. Please meet, from Mahamaya, Anuja Somaratne, Varunika Randenigama, Charita Wijesinghe, Maduthilini Subasinghe, Chintani Samarasuriya, Nadika Weerasinghe, Darshani Nanayakkara, Sansala Silva, Julanjali Jayasinghe, Pramodini Makehelwala, Amodika Sumithraarachchi, Dilum Sikurajapathi, Dulangi Galagoda and Harshini Jayasundera. And from Dharmaraja: Eric Bakmeedeniya, Anuradha Lokubandara, Janitha Kodithuwakku, Anura Bandara Wijeratne and Dulsiri Walgama.

Go on, kids. May the force be with you!

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