Joy of Dance: Meet the Dancers

Nov 01 2023.

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The Ballet School of Colombo (TBSC) presents “Joy of Dance”, a production incorporating elements of classical ballet, jazz ballet, tap and contemporary set against the backdrop of mystical times and winds of change. With the Hansel & Gretel Ballet taking centre stage during the first half of the show, the second act will offer performances displaying a variety of dance genres. Joy of Dance is set to take place this Friday (3rd) and Saturday (4th) at the Bishop's Auditorium from 7 pm onwards.
 
Ahead of the show, we met the dancers of the Hansel & Gretel Ballet to talk about the show, their challenges and what they love about it.
 
1.        Shenelle Arasaratnam as Gretel
Having joined TBSC at the age of 13, Shenelle takes the lead role in this performance as ‘Gretel’. Her background is in ballet, jazz and contemporary dance.
 
“This is my first big production since I started dancing and I am so excited to perform the Hansel & Gretel Ballet – to act this story out without words, just dance. Most people don’t understand that ballet is really hard, they don’t understand the technique that goes behind every move, even just to lift a leg up and do it right and make it look effortless, it requires a lot of strength and muscle. Even though it was challenging for me to learn to dance on pointe for this show, getting it right was also very rewarding.”
 
2.      Okitha Karunadhara as Hansel
With a background in theatre, the stage is hardly a new space for Okitha, one of two Hansel’s in the performance. Okitha has been with TBSC for nearly two years and dances ballet, jazz and contemporary.
 
“The stage is not a new place for me but combining acting with dancing was a bit of a challenge because you have to focus on getting the audience to understand you with your body than with your words. But I’ve really enjoyed having the chance to channel my inner child in portraying Hansel! I’ve always wanted to dance, ever since I was 12 – particularly ballet. This concept that boys shouldn’t do ballet because it’s stereotypically feminine should be torn down and I hope my performance confronts it. It’s been challenging to commit to this with everything else I’ve been involved in but I’m so thankful for the cast, they’ve kept me in check and ensured I pull through.”  
 
3.      Supushpika Jayakody as Hansel
A dancer nearly all his life, Supushpika was a traditional dancer for over 6 years. He recently joined TBSC’s performing arts programme and is currently learning ballet.
 
“As a traditional dancer, when I first started ballet, it was very confusing for me to learn all these new moves with pointing and all. The transition from a traditional dancer to ballet was difficult but I really liked watching how the other dancers performed I wanted to do what they did so I worked hard and I’m doing my best in this new style. I’m excited for our upcoming performance because even though I’ve danced on stage multiple times, this is the first time that I’m dancing while acting a role!”.
 
4.      Anitra Gunaratne as the Witch
Having started dancing at a very young age, Anitra’s background is in classical ballet, contemporary dance and jazz.
 
“I’m playing a really interesting role as the Witch because while she’s very cunning, she initially shows up as a nice character in the performance but swiftly transforms into the witch in a moment’s time. I love that switch in character but at the same time, portraying it was my biggest challenge! It’s why I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to be on stage and do something that has challenged me so much and made me grow as a dancer. Plus, we have this really exciting jazz routine that I’m sure the audience will love!”
 
 
5.      Ashmita Sriharan as the Moon
A passionate dancer even as a child, Ashmita joined TBSC three years ago. At the school, she does classical ballet, contemporary dance and jazz.
 
“Dance has always been a passion for me as a young kid. I did Bharatanatyam before so transitioning to ballet felt so natural, even though they definitely required very different levels of energy! I’m really looking forward to the show because we worked very hard for it. It’s not easy as a group to ensure that we do every move in sync, it has to be perfect at every second for it to look good on stage”
 


6.      Kyra Wafa as Father
Dancing since the age of three, Kyra’s background is in classical ballet, contemporary dance and tap.
 
“This is our biggest performance as a school so there were a lot of new steps we had to perfect and it’s been a big commitment. In the dances, I have to do a double bourrée that I’ve been working so hard to perfect so I’m very excited to perform that on the show. Doing a production of this nature of course means that we have practice every day so balancing school work and other things has been challenging but at the same time, it’s also our favourite part. I love seeing the team every day and I know I’ll miss them when it’s all done.”
 
7.      Lasandi Matharaarachchi as Sandman
Having joined TBSC a year ago, Lasandi currently dances classical ballet.
 
“It’s not easy putting up a production of this scale but this is such a great team. We really helped each other through it all and we motivated each other when we needed it. Committing to the kind of time and effort this production needs is challenging and exhausting but it’s also fun and I know the audience will see it for themselves on the day of the show.” 
 
8.      Shalini de Mel as the Main Sweet
A dancer for over 21 years, the performing stage is practically a home for this seasoned dancer. Having learned the art of dance from veteran dancer Oosha Saravanamuttu, Shalini dances ballet, jazz and contemporary dance and is also an instructor at TBSC.
 
“It’s been quite some time since a school has put up a full-length ballet production so I think the audience will really enjoy it. This is my first production as a senior dancer and even though TBSC had its first concert back in 2017, the scale of Joy of Dance is much bigger with more variety. We’ve been working very hard for this show and even though on some days I can’t even feel my feet, the best part of all of this is being here with them.”
 
9.      Ovindee Rajapakse as the Main Chocolate Drop
Ovindee joined TBSC two years ago and dances ballet, jazz and contemporary dance.
 
“I really think the audience is in for a treat with this show. We have been practising tirelessly for over 6 months now and even though it’s been tough to make the time with everything else we have going on; it’s been worth it because putting this show together has been fun and I think the audience will see that also. While act one is all about the Hansel & Gretel ballet, act two will also have some great performances that everyone will love.”

 

Joy of Dance is put together by the directors of the Ballet School, Romina Gyi, Nadine Magdon- Ismail and Tara Cooke with the help of the school faculty Janindu Ranasinghe, Shalini de Mel and Anitra Gunaratne.
 
Joy of Dance is sponsored by title sponsor The Sabrina Yusoof Foundation and the Australian Presence Legal and Back to Origins as the Patron of the Arts together with Ayuwanna by Barberyn, Crystalstone, Hunas Holdings, Oxford Business School, Suren Cooke Agencies, The Dance Shop, Dankotuwa, Nanaska, PTC Media and Tess. Cinnamon Grand Colombo is the Official Hospitality Partner, Dilmah T Lounge is the Official Beverage Partner and Daily Mirror, Financial Times, Hi and Sunday Times are the Exclusive Media partners.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Panchali Illankoon

Law Graduate, food and travel enthusiast and full time dog mom..


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