Dance of the souls
Twin brothers Rangana and Rangika are the versatile talents behind “Rivega” their own dance academy
By Randima Attygalle
Their names Rangana and Rangika mean 'dance' or 'movement'. As unborn babes they would have felt each other's first heartbeat; in school they took their first steps together on the stage and here they are today, moving to the beat of davul and thalampata encircled by aspiring dancers.

At 'Rivega', their very own dancing institute in the suburbs of Dehiwala,- eager youngsters from age four to versatile young adults take their cues from Rangana Evantha Vidanage and Rangika Jeewantha Vidanage, the first pair of twin brothers to conduct professional dancing classes in Sri Lanka. Thanks to their different attire, I manage to identify them.

So what is special about Rivega? "We are the first twin brothers in Sri Lanka to establish an institute for professional dancing where we teach traditional Kandyan dancing, low country and western modes such as ballroom, jive and cha cha. We were also the first set of twins to attain the level of 'wes' or‘hisa wes bendima’ which means reaching the highest standards of Kandyan dancing and be recognized as veterans after years of systematic mastering of the art," explained Rangana, the elder twin.

"Apart from dancing, our institute also caters to wedding requirements such as 'jayamangala gatha' and 'ashtaka' ," added Rangika, the younger brother. Their talents evident from a tender age, there was not a single school concert or a cultural event held without their contribution at Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa, and later Royal College Colombo, where Rangika gained admission in recognition of his dancing skills.

Both Rangana and Rangika recall with appreciation, the guidance received under their dancing gurus, Neranjala Narangoda, Piyasara Shilpadhipathy, Channa Wijewardene, Niloufer Peiris and S.Chandratileke, all eminent names in traditional and classical dancing in Sri Lanka. Rangana gives the full credit to his younger brother Rangika for taking the initiative to set up a dancing institute, thumping him on the back in a brotherly manner.“I felt that this way the art I've mastered through laborious work will be there in me forever. While I gain self satisfaction, many more will benefit," says Rangika.They launched Rivega while studying for their Advanced Level exam.

The name "Rivega" coined by Arisen Ahubudu, denotes "rhythm of life". And the remarkable coincidence was that their first pupils Nirosha and Nimasha happened to be eight-year-old identical twins! Today this pair plays a prime role in their special wedding troupe, singing jayamangalagatha apart from dancing."We were both nervous at the start because the pali words of jayamangalagatha were difficult to pronounce. But today we are quite confident and we enjoy both singing and dancing," says Nimesha. Today Rivega has three more sets of twins which makes the institution quite special.

"My initial impression of our gurus was that they are stern and there'll be regimental discipline. However with time I realized that dancing is an art which requires discipline as it involves both physical and mental input and especially since it involves beautiful girls," says sixteen-year-old Chinthaka, a versatile dancer at the academy. He says that learning at Rivega under Rangana and Rangika is a new experience each day. "Although still in their early twenties, their professionalism is remarkable" adds Chinthaka.

Both Rangana and Rangika have many firsts to their names. They bagged the prize for "Best Twins" in 2002 at the National Twins Day organized by Sri Lanka Twins' Cultural Centre. A trip to Bangalore was part of the prize. For the brothers, this was a milestone as it was their maiden international effort. " It was good international exposure for us," says Rangika who says that they were touched by the Indian audience's response to our traditional dancing. "We felt proud of each other and also of our Sri Lankan identity," adds Rangana.

Other memorable experiences include performances given by their dance troupe at the official inauguration of Excel World's Snow City, in December 2003, the launch of a new oil brand at Associated Motorways Ltd in June this year and Colours' Nite at Royal College in 2003. Some parents who were present sought Rivega's participation at their children's weddings. "

The composition of the troupe depends on the event. Usually for weddings, the dancers and Jayamangalagatha girls remain the same. Every student is given an opportunity to participate at events once they have reached a certain standard.Another distinct feature of their wedding troupe is their willingness to match their attire to the bridal retinue. "We believe in coordination between our team and the couple both in the mode of dress and colour," says Rangana who says that whether it's Kandyan or western style, they see to it that the costumes of the female dancers harmonise with those of the bride. "The effect is best seen in video and photographs," adds Rangika.

Rangika is awaiting university admission to major in dancing. Under the guidance of Niloufer Peiris he is due in Singapore early next year to major in modern dance, ballet and jazz. He also trains Wycherley International School's Hewisi band while Rangana is pursuing marketing studies whilst working out of Colombo. Despite his demanding job and studies, Rangana coaches the pupils over the weekends together with Rangika who conducts classes on weekdays too.

So how does Rangana with his artistic bent find himself in a career poles apart from dancing?" Although I've chosen a marketing-oriented career, dancing is my passion. It helps me beat the stress," says Rangana. He is due to enrol at the Film Dancing School in Mumbai shortly. Rangika says that his brother's marketing knowledge is instrumental in improving the quality and the exposure of their art to the world.The team is now busy with the preliminary work of the grand opening of their dance studio in September.

Meanwhile they are expanding their academy with better sound and light facilities. Many dance displays with the participation of each and every dancer at the academy are planned for the opening of their new studio. Asked what their message to budding dancers is , Rangana replies, "If you have an inborn talent in the art, it has to be professionally enriched with hard work and of course, discipline." Both hold the view that merely moving with the times is of no use unless one gives due place to our traditional dance.

"Our indigenous dancing should be exposed more and more to the world maintaining its originality without distorting it with modern beats and steps," says Rangika who also believes that mastering other eastern and western modes is equally important so that at the end of the day you are a well-rounded dancer.

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