Marking an era of dancing through reality | Sunday Observer

Marking an era of dancing through reality

10 January, 2021

To date, knowing what he does and how he has done them throughout all these years do not astound the Sri Lankan audience or the audiences across the seas as ‘eccentricity’ has been in his vein since his beginning. His work speaks for him to an extent where it doesn’t need any introductions other than his name itself.

For Chandana Wickramasinghe, ‘dancing’ had been impatiently waiting to burst out through his bodily movements since he was just five years old. Fortunately, his parents had been wise enough to let their son dive deep in his fascination, so, five year old Chandana started learning his initial dance steps at ‘Chithrasena School of Dance’ and then he became a professional dancer while studying at the ‘Kulasiri Budawatta Dancing Academy’.

‘Both Chithrasena and Budawatta are legends in dancing’ says Chandana. He has walked past many exceptional and exotic milestones in his journey and, purposely or not, Chandana’s life has revolved around his flair. ‘Under Ravibandu Vidyapathi and Mudiyanse Dissanayake, I performed for 8 years as a member of the Sama Foundation and the Sama Ballet Troupe. At the age of 28, I went to India for my higher studies at the University of Vishwa Bharathi’. Later on, Chandana ventured into his own dance school ‘Dancers Guild of Sri Lanka’ 22 years ago with only 4 students, which has expanded to international platforms today.

Style

Kathakali, which is a popular dance style in Kerala became a prominent study for Chandana and his work got infused with it. According to him; ‘This style is not just dance but act. Katha stands for ‘story’ while kali stands for ‘playing’. ‘Kathakali is a blend of acting and dancing. Some legends including Chithrasena, Paneebharatha and Pradeep Rathnayake based their work on this style’.

‘My traditional dance form ‘Story of Seetha’ is inculcated with what I learned from Kathakali. Also, I believe I could make a brand in ‘ballet’ through Kathakali.’ Some of Chandana’s distinctive and celebrated creations that has the influence of Kathakali are, ‘Fusion in blue’, ‘Peacock dance’ and ‘From blue sky to the deep sea’.

Chandana is a master of ‘fusion dancing’ as well. His fusions are combinations of Sri Lankan and Indian dancing. The ‘Mediterranean concept’, ‘Four seasons’,Raamayanaya, ‘Under the stars’, ‘Emperors of the monsoon’ and ‘River dance opera’ are some of his fusion dances.

Branding

Chandana’s work has gradually become a brand. Companies such as CDB, SriLankan Airlines, Sri Lanka Tourist Board, Foreign Employment Bureau and Exports Development Bank have created their concepts from Chandana and his choreography that also comes with an ornament of drumming. He promotes Sri Lankan-ness all over the world and creates commercial art paving all paths to destinations where his work deserves to be. ‘I’m glad that I could make a brand out of dancing in Sri Lanka because nobody encourages us to be dancers.

At school I did Bio science but I’m proud of where I’ve ended up. Also, I’m grateful to all of my teachers and gurus. Apart from Chithrasena, Ravibandu and Mudiyanse, I want to mention Kalamandalam T.N. Shankaranarayan, Hemantha Kumara and Hema Wijewardhana (my uncle who sent me to India)’

‘If you have any potential

or skill, there’s nothing wrong

in giving it a price or a value,’ says Chandana.

Transformation of eras

‘Before learning anything else, we should first know how to treasure and praise others’ work. It is because we lack that trait that we are still a backward nation’. In Sr Lanka, dancing has diverse shades. If someone can make marvels out of the bodily movements to a simple yet profound theme enrapturing the beholders, that person can undeniably become an epitome of a particular era of dancing.

‘Chithrasena is the legend of creative dancing in Sri Lanka with the cultural revolution he did. Channa Wijewardhana introduced the facet of ‘fantasy’ and visibly, he performed witchcraft with his fantasy after 1970 and 1980. I think what I have brought to stage lies not only on stage, it’s the reality.

So, I can travel wherever I wish with my originality and the universality of it’. Chandana was excited to recall a moment where he had met the late Carlo Fonseka when Carlo had looked back on the eras of Chithrasena and Channa asking Chandana whether it is his era that is the next to be dawned. Chandana wonders how Carlo Fonseka’s prediction came true and how all their names are aligned next to each other representing three eras of dance, all of them starting with the letter ‘C’.

Milestones

Throughout his success story, Chandana has been fortunate enough to witness the diversity of the world and be versatile while contributing to significant occasions. The story of Seetha which was themed on ‘do not disrespect women’ was performed in Delhi, Lucknow and Ayodhya.

The performance had been enchanting with the voices of Nanda Malini, Thilini Yadew Rodrigo and Asitha Atapattu, with lyrics from Rathna Sri Wijesinghe and choreography and costumes from Chandana.

 

  •  The performance at the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Republic of Belarus in Minsk
  •  The Performance of Mayura Sandeshaya at the Peterborough Arts Festival in 2005
  •  LPL opening ceremony Kandyan dance performance in 2020

Awards

Chandana has won five national awards for Kusa Pabha (Derana Lux award for the best choreographer), Ali Kathawa (best choreographer), Yashodara (the most popular choreographer and the best choreographer), Paththini (best choreographer).

He has also won the Presidential award for the best choreographer in 2019 and the Brisla award, UK.

In May this year, Chandana’s new production King Panduwas dev Raja with the theme of Kohomba Kankariya will be staged. The production will be enriched with Peshala Manoj’s music and the creative efforts by the Indo Sri Lanka Foundation and ‘Chandana and the Dancers’ Guild’.

 

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