For Kapila Palihawadana and his dancers at nATANDA, embarking on a new dance project can be likened to the meticulous research conducted by an author prior to writing a book.
With Ripples- the latest in a series of innovative dance projects- which aims to progress over the two years, the need for comprehensive research takes on a new level of importance for these dancers, who take the stage of the Open Air Theatre at Viharamahadevi Park on March 23 and 24.
With nATANDA’s penchant for somewhat avant-garde productions, it comes as no surprise that as its name suggests, ‘Ripples’ is all about water. A recent three day water cut had Kapila contemplating the complex bond lying between man and water. “There I was,” he chuckles, stuck in the shower without sufficient water; and it really had me questioning our attitude that has us taking water for granted all the time.” And that is how it all began.
Over the months which followed, the NATANDA team got down to business with making observations and devising, as always, an entirely new repertoire of movements which encompass the several nuances of what they view as water’s personality.
“It does have a personality- or maybe several,” asserts Kapila. “There is no one word that can be used to describe it, and this was one of the challenge we faced in figuring out the best way to represent water through dance. This was where all the research came in useful.”
According to Kapila, research is an invaluable tool. “In dance,” he says, “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.”
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.
True to form, the Ripples project is double edged. Not only does it work to break away from tried and tested dance forms, but seeks to invite new perspectives and activism for an important cause- water management. “There is so much abuse of water as a natural resource,” says Kapila, “ and what we are working towards here is to create more awareness, especially among the youth, in order that they may realize that in a very simple way, they can make a significant difference. For me, it is the simplest things that we often take for granted, that can really make a change.”
With this change in mind, subsequent to the opening show in March, the next two years will see Kapila and his dances conducting several more performances around the country and abroad, in addition to workshops and seminars for school children, in collaboration with the International Water Management Institute.
“To start with,” says Kapila, “what is important is that we bring about more respect for our natural resources, appreciating the fact that we are the only ones on earth with the power to protect and that it is impossible to sustain ourselves without these resources. Once that realization is achieved, I am sure we would all be a little more responsible.” Kapila thanks the Goethe Institut, Hillwood College, and the Yoshida Foundation for the support extended toward his new venture. The Sunday Times is the show’s print media sponsor.
Magazine cover and pictures
by Lekha Edirisinghe