traditional dance must move on: Channa
Channa Wijewardene has carved a niche
in the world of dance with his innovative styles, which are a blend
of both traditional and modern. He has faced both criticism and
applause in his career, he tells Dhananjani Silva
Tell us about your childhood?
When I was a kid I was naughty. I had my primary education in London.
From there I joined Carey College and then Isipathana. I was into
sports like rugger, basketball and tennis. I was also good at drawing
and painting. So much so that whenever I came across a toy or something
I used to dismantle it and create something new. Even if it was
a shoe, I tried to change its original style by putting a buckle
on to it .
How did you start dancing?
My father danced with Chitrasena as a hobby. One day I saw Chitrasena
performing on stage and I was inspired.That day I decided to take
is it like performing to a foreign audience? What is the response
that you get?
The response is good. We have a quite a big foreign audience. We
have been recognized more overseas than in Sri Lanka. As soon as
we finish a concert in one country we sometimes get invitations
to go to another.
Do you find others copying your outfits or dancing style?
Yes, sometimes! (laughs). Without knowing the purpose behind a particular
creation and how it should be done, some people copy our innovations.
I would appreciate if they at least called and found out what was
the purpose and intention of a particular creation without blindly
copying it. And when they do so they fail miserably.
Anganavo for example. I was the first to do Anganavo and now others
are imitating it. I believe it was my dance item that made the song
popular. There was a time when Rukantha Gunathileke used to call
me and tell me that he used to get bookings because of my dance
How much does your wife Upuli contribute to your innovations?
She gives a lot of constructive criticism. She helps to design the
costumes too. She does the shopping, selects the material and knows
exactly what I am looking for.
also doesn’t allow any phone calls to disturb me while I am
at work. Sometimes when I start working in the morning I go on till
evening without lunch or tea. My dance troupe knows this well. I
am grateful to them, because whatever I have achieved is due to
them.This is not a one-man show. Our effort can be compared to a
painting – there would be nothing if there was no canvas,
paint or brush.
often do you create something new, something different?
I try to be creative in whatever I do. I try to add something
new even to something that I have done a couple of years back. The
changes may be small but it is always something new.
example, the human lamp was one of my creations. Rather than having
a brass lamp on stage, I made the girls make a formation of a lamp.
What is the best advice you have ever got? And from whom?
It was from my teacher Dr. Chitrasena who passed away a
few months ago.
There was a time when I was being criticised by many people for
the changes I was making to the traditional dance form. There were
critical articles that appeared in the papers and I even received
costumes were supposed to be very colourful, but I changed them
to black. Even the drummers’ costumes were changed as I was
designing them in a different way. I was criticised for this. It
was then that I went to Chitrasena for advice. He asked me, “When
do you get tackled when you are playing a game of rugger.”
I replied , “obviously when you have the ball in your hands.”
Then he said, “if you don’t want to be criticised throw
the ball”. That is when I decided to go on.
is your motto in life?
When it comes to dancing there is no end. It goes on.
What do you think of Sri Lankan dance?
Since we are internationally recognised we know the value
of dancing. We have a rich tradition and we must move on from there.
That is why our troupe can compete with the rest of the world.
is your message to upcoming artistes?
Practise as much as you can. A teacher cannot give you
everything. Therefore, at a certain point you have to be your own
to perform at Kennedy Center
Lankan sitar virtuoso Pradeep Ratnayake will perform at The John
F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. on
November 7. He along with his Pradeepanjalee ensemble comprising
Alston Joachim (bass guitar), Wijeratna Ranatunga (tabla), Lakshman
Joseph de Saram (violin) and Karunarathna Bandara (Sri Lankan percussion)
will be performing on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center.
concert is organized by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C.
in partnership with the Kennedy Center.
is also the first time in 15 years that a group of talented Sri
Lankan artistes perform in the US capital, a sophisticated repertoire
of Sri Lankan music that draws from Indian, Sri Lankan and Western
Pradeep Ratnayake's U.S. premiere was at the Asia Society and Museum
in New York in September where he received a standing ovation.
Asia Society has introduced American audiences to major artistes
such as sitar great Ravi Shankar. Pradeep also performed in New
Jersey and Montreal, Canada and at the Globe Theatre, Universal
Studios in California organized by the Sri Lanka Foundation in Los
Kennedy Center performance could be accessed live over the Internet
at 5:00 a.m. Sri Lankan time.
funny, the sombre and a memorable evening
Rag-In Concert. Written and directed
by Jehan Aloysius.
Reviewed by Olga de Livera
the CentreStage Festival at the Lionel Wendt theatre last weekend
was a truly memorable experience. The first half of the evening
which began with the comedy `Two in a Pit’, was filled with
laughter at the hilarious frolics of two leading actors of the English
theatre well played by Ravi (Shehan Nelson) and Jean ( Ruhanie Perera)
, who were locked up ‘accidentally’ in the orchestra
pit of the Lionel Wendt Theatre. Writer (Jehan Aloysius) cleverly
used their unfortunate and comic situation to take a swipe at the
lives of actors of the English theatre in general.
In the second half of the programme, the mood shifted from lighthearted
comedy to the sombre serious theme of ragging and violence on campuses
when` Rag – In Concert’ depicting excerpts from a forthcoming
musical production opened in a spectacular fashion. This stunning
musical extravaganza of song and dance was undoubtedly the highlight
of the evening. The soul-stirring music blended perfectly with the
action on stage. The rape of Natasha ( the character excellently
and sensitively portrayed by Lakmini Cooray ) highlighted the depravity
and insensitivity to which ragging, a once harmless practice of
initiating freshers to their new way of life on campus, has now
descended- with tragic consequences as in the death of Joe (Jehan
Aloysius). Dushyanth Weeraman also gave a sensitive portrayal as
the tragic victim of ragging.
Jehan Aloysius, who wrote the excellent script and the original
musical score besides choreographing the show and acting as well,
should be congratulated for his versatile talent. He has an incredible
voice range and a striking, altogether attractive stage presence.
He clearly stood out among the rest for his clear, well articulated
singing and powerful portrayal of the character of Joe.
Christina Francke who played the role of Sakunthala must also be
commended for her excellent performance both as a singer with a
remarkable voice, and talented actress who played her role to perfection.
Avanthi Perera who was responsible for the skilful performing of
the music and orchestration deserves a special word of praise for
her wonderful job. Her haunting lament over the dead body of her
son ( Jehan) also revealed a singer of exceptional talent and remarkable
The final scene saw a religious flavour brought out by Joe’s
death. His stiff body lifted up with the arms outstretched sideways
had a close resemblance to the crucified Christ, while his sorrowing
mother cradling him in her arms bore a striking resemblance to the
Pieta both in her dress and in her stance.
It was obvious that a great deal of effort, time and dedication,
had gone into this performance. One must not forget to mention the
cleverly executed lighting effects and the equally superb sound
effects. I found the opening score particularly uplifting. The different
types of songs and dances featured offered variety and sustained
one’s interest in what was happening on stage from beginning
unusual stage effects symbolizing Joe’s dream of ending violence
and division with peace and one-ness, such as the angel of peace
hovering over a huge dragon breathing fire and rage (a symbol of
campus unrest?) that marches across the stage in the opening scene,
were most impressive. Costumes were simple but appropriate and like
the music, varied with the mood and emotions of the actors.
in all, it was a very well put together evening of talent. The young
Director has done a great job in bringing together a large cast
of amateur actors on stage, many of them probably for the first
time, to give a polished performance. We eagerly look forward to
seeing the full length production of Rag in the near future.
canvas of seven Nepali artists
The work of seven talented young Nepali artists is now showcased
in ‘Imagine’ an exhibition on at the Finom(e)nal art
gallery at Galle Face Court, Colombo till November 28.
Asha Dangol’s semi-abstract works are compact, figurative
subdued compositions of nature and society. “My new work,
is focused on Mithila-the art and people of the Terai. My colour
tones and figures reflect the simplicity of the native forms found
in Mithila Art that give my works a new found meditative quality,”
says the artist.
Pradeep Bajracharya says his work depicts his fascination with moods
of festivals, using multicolours with foggy patches and sweeping
black and white and red lines.
Erina Tamrakar’s paintings are based on feminity. “The
misery and curiosity of female figures always dominate my canvases.
After the birth of my son, my mind naturally delved into the relationship
between mother and child and has become more meditative,”
Binod Pradhan’s work explores the two sided personality, the-external
face and internal face. “I am always fascinated with these
faces where I want to create the relation between the inner soul
and outer soul (face),” he adds.
Bhai Raj Maharjan says his paintings have always revealed his preoccupation
with the female form, especially rural Newari women attending to
their day-to-day chores. “The women that I have now chosen
to paint are young, slender and sensuous. I have captured them in
their private and secret moments: sleeping, resting, bathing, oiling
their hair and changing. I paint them with their long tresses flowing
and unbound, symbolic of my new found freedom of expression.”
Sunila Bajracharya’s work also focuses on women. “My
paintings depict the realism of women and the rhythm of their bodies.
I render them with definite brushstrokes and bold colours. The features
are highly stylized, almost icon-like. The focus has simply been
on the juxtaposition of broad planes of colour and strong lines,
evidenced by the fine etching and markings on the women’s
bodies and other surfaces.”
Pramila Bajracharya explains that to her, Nature itself is a form
of beauty and so, she explores her passion and moods through landscapes.
“Urban and rural settings always inspire me to create the
contrast and vivid colours that provide the tremendous effect of
Nepali landscapes,” she says.