The beauty within
Beauty And The Beast
(Left) Shonaka, ‘the beauty’ in Beauty And The
and A scene from the musical
By Minal Wickrematunge
Ballet lovers and
theatre goers are in for a treat with Deanna School of
Dancing’s production of Beauty And The Beast.
This production is directed by Sri Lanka’s famed dancer,
Deanna has a long
standing career of dance starting at the wee age of two
and a half years old. She enrolled at the Yvonne Bradley
School of Dance in Colombo. After this she proceeded
onto London at the age of 16 to attend classes with the
late Miss Ruth French, a respected examiner of the Royal
Academy of Dance.
Deanna then opened
a school in London for a period of 10 years following
which she decided to move back to her motherland and
start the Deanna School of Dance. Deanna has now become
a leading ballet teacher and her school has now
flourished into a strong establishment.
daughters, Natalie and Natasha are her assistant
choreographers for this production. The eldest of the
two, Natalie, is a qualified dance teacher trained by
her mother as well as other establishments, namely; The
Elmhurst Ballet School and Pinapple Studios in the
United Kingdom. Natalie now returns to Sri Lanka with
the aim of assisting her mother with the senior students
of the school.
youngest daughter has a diverse background in dance.
Among the plethora of genres, ranging from classical
ballet to Spanish dancing, her niche is undoubtedly hip
hop and street jazz. Natasha has directed numerous
productions including choreographing fashion shows and
dance shows as well. She too will help with the school’s
I spoke further to
Natasha who told me that this show will be the first
production that all three dancers will be working
together on. ‘It is a very special experience for the
three of us!’ Natasha tells me bubbling with enthusiasm.
Q: What other
productions has the school staged previously?
We have had many performances including Sleeping
Beauty, Aladdin, Swan Princess,
Nutcracker and even Beauty And The Beast that
we staged a long time ago.
Q: What makes this
production different to the others, particularly Beauty
and the Beast that was staged before?
Firstly this production is much larger in scale as we
will have a cast of 450 ranging from the age of two to
25. Due to the sheer size of the cast we will be having
three different casts with the juniors performing on one
of the three days. This ballet will also be very
different as it is created from Walt Disney’s cartoon
version of Beauty And The Beast.
The sound tracks
are taken off the Walt Disney version as well. However
we have also had to create scenes, such as the garden
scene, to accommodate the large volume of juniors.
Therefore the story has been slightly altered with
orchestral music included by the likes of Johann Strauss
Q: Tell us a
little more about the lead characters.
We have girls who were playing minor roles in our
original production of Beauty And The Beast now
becoming part of the main cast! For instance Shonaka
Ranatunga who plays the role of Belle was initially a
tea cup in the original performance!
This actually gives
the youngsters ambition or the drive they need as it
goes to show that even if you have a minor role
currently, you never know what will happen in 10 years
if you keep practising! The standard of the students,
including the juniors is also now much higher. We also
have Baratha De Silva who will be playing the role of
the beast while Sajaad Shabdeen will be taking the role
Q: What audience
are you attracting? Do you agree with the perception
that ballet cannot be appreciated by men?
Firstly the children’s parents will make up a large part
of the audience as well as anybody who loves dance will
be interested in this production. It is not strict
ballet and will be very entertaining. We will be dancing
to music with lyrics and will incorporate acting into
our performances as well (At which point Natasha
playfully bursts into a melody from the show).
Secondly I do not
believe that men do not appreciate ballet as I believe
that a lot of men realise the difficulty that comes with
a guy dancing classical ballet. Also more guys in Asia
are taking up ballet as they realise the strength and
technique that goes into the art. This could even help
with other sports like rugby and karate.
Q: Will we be
seeing any fresh talent?
Many! Sajaad (Gaston) has done a lot of hip hop with me
but this will be his first ballet performance on stage.
We also have the young Kiho Tanaka, an eleven year old
Japanese girl who has a bundle of talent playing the
rose in the ballet. Also you cannot forget the juniors,
some only two, making their debuts on stage!
Q: When will this
performance be staged and where will the tickets be
The production will be on 28, 29 and 30 at the Bishop’s
College auditorium. Tickets will be available at Deanna
School of Dancing 30/63 H, Longdon Place, Colombo 7.
Telephone number 2504771/2. I would also like to thank
all the staff, the parents of our cast and our sponsors
E FM and ART TV on behalf of my mother and sister.
So all you dance
lovers! Here’s hoping I have enticed you to go ahead and
buy tickets for this exhilarating and enchanting
production of Beauty And The Beast!
Young author tackles delicate subjects
This week, Brandon Ingram, author of The Fairy Dance
and Living Their Lies, talks about his work,
inspiration and gay rights in Sri Lanka.
Q: Your first book
was based on child sex slaves in the south. Why were you
inspired to write on such a delicate topic?
You’re right, it is a delicate topic and one that
ruffles a lot of feathers when spoken about because
people would much rather ignore such a problem than
acknowledge its existence. They say that children, in
their purity and innocence, represent the image of God
and to know that they were being used for such perverse
deeds angered and infuriated me and that, I would say,
was my inspiration.
Q: Do you think you
qualify to speak on behalf of child sex slaves?
Am I an expert on the issue? Of course not. The
information I received arrived on my desk during the
time I was working on an advertising campaign with JWT.
I write about issues that I, as an individual, feel
strongly about. If we waited for qualified people to
approach the subject, I believe we’ll be waiting a long
Q: At the launch of
Living Their Lie
and in the book, you
state that ‘society claims to know so much of who we are
that now there is no choice but to continue living their
lie.’ What is this lie of which you speak?
Regardless of how much we may claim not to care about
other people’s opinions of us, those opinions play a
great role of importance in our lives. Life is short and
we hardly have enough time to discover ourselves
completely before society does the job for us. You wake
up one day and you suddenly realise that all you’re
doing is living up to someone else’s expectations or
someone else’s image of who they think you are.
After some time we
get tired of trying to change the opinions of ourselves
and automatically start being whom they’ve crafted us to
be. I think that if we all dropped the act, life would
be much more interesting and far more worth living.
Q: Rumour has it
that Living Their Lie
is a real life story
about you. Is this true?
Well if I was a 60 year old man recounting the events of
his life then the rumour would have had some basis.
(Smiles) In your question alone you’ve depicted a very
strong point of what my book is trying to convey.
Rumours, no matter how baseless, end up being truths
because half way down the line no one remembers how and
where they started.
I’ll be honest
here. I was raised by three women whom I love and adore
with all my heart and as a result of this I’m not your
average macho dude. I’m effeminate, I’m sensitive, I
lead a very bohemian life and I believe in the message
my book carries, which is that gender does not define
who you fall in love with.
Lots of people,
including my family, have tried to make sense of these
things and over the years have labelled me with every
possible name society has created. The fact that the
book is written in the first person adds to the
controversy. But the truth, as I said at the launch, is
that this book is merely an attempt to share my
understanding on the subject of same gender
relationships with my readers. As a solid answer to your
question, I’d say refer to page number four of the book.
There you will find the following sentence: Living
Their Lie is a work of fiction.
Q: Does any
research go into your writing?
I did delve into some research while I was writing my
first book and the birth of the second one was after
some intense discussions and interesting time spent with
people who both share and oppose my beliefs and some of
those who had been and still are in same gender
Living Their Lie,
you categorise Colombo’s people
into five segments,; ‘Wannabes’, ‘Street-Smarts’,
‘Philosophers’, ‘Elitists’ and ‘The Power Brokers’.
Being a Colombo socialite yourself, which of these
categories do you fall into?
Quite honestly I believe that Colombo has far more to
offer than these five stereotypes and to be fair, these
five in particular were parts of my creation. But in the
years that have passed, three of my bosses and a
fortune-teller have called me a Street-Smart so if I had
to categorise myself then that would be it.
Q: Tell me about
the gay movement here, have things improved?
I think it’s unfair to equalise a
person’s sexual preference to something that sounds like
a political party. But if you’re asking me about whether
or not there’s been a change in the discrimination and
violence shown towards individuals who’ve chosen same
sex partners, then I wouldn’t be the best person to ask.
But I do know that young men and women still get thrown
out of their homes when their parents discover who they
prefer holding hands with, they are still looked down
upon as a social disease and they are still met with
hate and venom by those who lack the understanding of
what they feel. So have things changed? I don’t know,
you tell me.
Q: Do you think
you’re pigeonholing yourself into gay literature with
books such as Living
This question is interesting
because when I initially said I was writing a second
book, everyone thought it was the sequel to my first
novel, The Fairy Dance and they assumed I would
continue writing about child abuse. I know some authors
prefer a certain subject matter in order to state their
identity amongst their readers but I’m not that kind of
author. I simply write about what no one else likes to
talk about. You may recognise my writing from one book
to another but you won’t find the same content.
Q: Are you an
advertising man or author? Which do you enjoy more or
think you’re better at?
Actually I’m neither advertising
man nor am I author. I’m simply someone who comes up
with ideas and has the ability to write them down in a
thought provoking manner.
Q: Are there any
authors — local or foreign — who have inspired your
As a matter of fact I draw most of my inspiration from
Paulo Coelho. I love his stories and the style with
which he delivers them to his readers.
Q: I hear you’re
heavily involved in the local theatre scene. Will you
turn your books into plays?
Um... I don’t know, but if someone
wants to offer me a movie deal for my books then I’m all
Q: You say you
believe in writing about taboo subjects, what can we
I don’t know if they’re taboo
amongst today’s society but I’m hoping to base my third
novel across a range of subjects, namely: autism,
abortion and the harsh cruelty of parents who despise
their own children. But I will be taking a bit of a
break before I pull it across the finish line.
Q: The artwork of
your books and glam shot of yourself on the back sleeve
are very nice.
Thank you but all credit there goes to Naveen
Mihindukulasuriya who designed both covers and the man
responsible for the photography was Deshan Tennekoon.
I’m in debt to their talent.
Brandon Ingram was educated in
Colombo and began his career in writing as a trainee
copywriter at JWT at the age of 17. He currently heads a
creative team at LOWE LDB and is frequently involved in
the cutting edge theatre company Mind Adventures.
Symphony For A Child: Making a difference through music
Symphony For A
Child, is a unique, annual charitable concert that
has happened in London for the last 11 years, mainly due
to the warmth and generosity of spirit, boundless energy
and commitment of one woman, Srima Jayasekera – a former
concert pianist and music teacher. Held at Regent Hall
in the heart of Central London, the concert has brought
together a number of distinguished performers including
most of the Sri Lankan musicians living abroad who have
excelled in their art.
Over the years
Rohan and Druvi De Saram, Rohan de Silva, Gayathrie
Pieris and Sujeeva Hapugalle have been amongst the
artists who have gladly played their part in
Symphony For A Child.
The idea for the
Symphony, sprang from Srima’s determination to help
enhance the facilities of the Children’s Unit of the
Maharagama Cancer Hospital following a visit there over
a decade ago. Scrupulously audited and distributed at
every concert, all proceeds from the Symphony– except
for the hire of the hall — go towards the improvement of
the conditions and opportunities for Sri Lankan children
primarily under the age of 16.
institutions as well as individuals have benefited from
the proceeds of Symphony For A Child. The first
concert, attended by over 250 people raised over 4,000
pounds sterling for the Children’s Unit and since then
Symphony For A Child has raised an annual sum of
2,000 pounds sterling for the Unit.
The proceeds from
this year’s concert will be donated to Ward No. 2 of the
IDH in Gothatuwa, Angoda for children with HIV and other
serious paediatric conditions. This ward was opened on
May 14, in memory of Srima’s late husband Brighty, a
former manager of the Bank of Ceylon in London and a
great source of strength and support to Srima. She also
gratefully acknowledges the support of Drs. B.J.C.
Perera, D.D.A. Wijewickrema and Anura Senanayake in this
children whose lives have been changed by Symphony
For A Child are Nuwan Maduwagaruge and Chulani
Umayangana. In 2005, Nuwan then a 13 year old, was
horribly injured after falling into a pit of burning
coconut shells whilst chasing a cricket ball. With the
help of Symphony For A child he was warded for a
year at the Apollo Hospital under the care of the Indian
specialist Dr. Panesar. Having recovered reasonably
well, Nuwan was able to return to school.
In 2006, Chulani
aged six and born deaf and dumb had her first cochlear
implant in an operation performed by Dr. Kaneswaran from
India, at the Durdans Hospital. The operation was a
major success – Chulani can hear, she attends school, is
trying to talk and continues with speech therapy at
Yet another life
that has been changed, decisively and deservedly, by the
Symphony is that of Namal Sanjeewa. Namal, a son of poor
parents from Weerawila in Tissamaharama was recommended
to Srima by Kushil Gunasekera. Even at 13, his age when
Srima first encountered him – Namal wanted to be an
engineer. Srima concedes that she had doubts at first
and cautioned him about the commitment and hard work
this would entail. Namal however dispelled all doubts,
obtaining 10 Distinctions at his O/Levels and 3 ‘A’s at
With the help of a
further year’s tuition in English, Namal entered the
University of Moratuwa for a four year degree course
(English Medium) in Civil Engineering. As he was over 16
and Symphony Funds were restricted to essential material
and equipment, Srima’s family helped with his board,
lodging and daily expenses. Every year on the course,
Namal obtained First Class passes and he has just
completed his BSc in Civil Engineering (First Class). He
has been placed on the Dean’s List with a score of 3.99
out of a possible 4.2.
Symphony For A Child will feature artistes from
various backgrounds who share a common characteristic of
excellent potential and accomplishment. The programme
will range form Western Classical music played on the
piano, flute, violin and cello to vocal duets and solo
tenors to traditional Kandyan drums, the Miruthangam,
Jazz Piano and Rhythm and Blues.
The programme in
this respect sustains the tradition of Symphony concerts
of variety in the choice of the music as well as in the
age of the performers. Symphony For A Child is
about excellence and accomplishment irrespective of age
or musical discipline. Above all, this remarkable
initiative that has been sustained for over a decade
with love and commitment, is about opportunity and about
making a difference for children, their lives and
Victims — a theme relevant to young people
An actor in the drama
"Victims is a
production presented by the senior school of Gateway
College. It will be staged at the Lionel Wendt on August
1 and 2 at 7 p.m.. Victims is a production with
music, song and dance. It has a cast of approximately 50
The script of
Victims has been written by Sashi Mendis, based on
workshop improvisations with the cast. On several
occasions students met with the director ( Sashi) and
participated in different types of activity through
which ideas were generated, worked upon and developed.
There were discussions on issues and themes relevant to
young people. Characters and story lines were created
and built upon. There were many sessions where students
improvised scenes according to given guidelines. These
exercises and activities laid the foundation for writing
is a play that revolves around the lives of a group of
young people still attending school. This play looks at
problems and issues faced by young people, in the
context of their day to day lives.
As the title
suggests, Victims not only analyses how young
people are sometimes the victims of social ills,
misguided values, etc, but how they can be the victims
of society at large, friends, parents and of themselves.
The story of Ryan
For instance the
play presents the story of Ryan. Ryan is a promising
student, well respected by all and seems to have it all
made. However as the story unfolds we see that Ryan is a
victim of his own habits and of a deed he didn’t really
mean to do. His question is; Why is life so unfair?
Because as he believes himself to be a fairly balanced
person who made just one mistake. So the play poses the
question – is Ryan a victim of himself or is he a victim
of those around him and their influence or is he a
victim of both?
The story of
Melanie is yet another well balanced, talented, young
girl that falls prey to Ryan’s carelessness and her life
takes a different turn. She is undoubtedly a victim of
the morals and the carelessness of others around her.
The story of Sonali
– Sonali a friend to Ryan , Melanie and Shehan has a
very troubled relationship with her mother. Naturally,
Sonali’s life is in disarray. She is a victim of an
estranged marriage and a neglectful parent. This leads
her to take her life into her own hands and to making
her own decisions. The play questions whether she is a
victim or whether she can overcome her sad situation.
The story of Shehan
— Shehan is intelligent and is a high performer at
examinations. A boy who has never known his mother ( who
died on his birth) is sensitive and hero worships his
father. At school however, Shehan is cornered and
bullied in school for being the Clever Nerd. The play
reveals a breaking point in Shehan’s life. Shehan is
thus portrayed to be a victim of many social realities
to which he succumbs and is unable to overcome.
While the play
Victims portrays in depth these issues of young
people. The play at the same time presents the average
life style of young people and thereby has an
entertaining and lighthearted aspect to it as well. So
we have as part of the play a talent competition which
brings in an element of song and music to the play.
There is even a comic play (A play within the play) that
is acted as part of the Talent Competition.
The play Victims
aims to be both entertaining and thought provoking.
Two talented sisters seek help
Ramodi and Rashmi
One is a dancer and
the other a singer. While one composes songs the other
dances. K.A Ramodi Nimesha Silva, 15, and K.A.Rashmi
Navodya Silva, 10, are two sisters who are determined to
succeed in life. Ramodi’s dream in life is to some day
become a professional singer while Rashmi’s is to become
a professional dancer.
Even though their
determination to succeed in life is constantly on their
minds, Ramodi and Rashmi have to depend on their
mother’s meager income to attend Sri Dharmarama Maha
Vidyalaya as their father abandoned them at a very young
age. Their mother earns a daily living by selling her
wares by the roadside, and her income is not enough to
support the two children in their extra curricular
"I always liked to
sing. When I was 12 years old I started singing and
writing songs. My songs are based on the soldiers who
fight on behalf of our motherland, parentless children,
orphaned children in shelters and sad songs that reflect
the suffering of people. I take around half an hour to
write a song," said Ramodi.
She added that her
teacher and mother support her by correcting the
grammatical mistakes in her songs. "My hope is to become
a music teacher and then a singer someday. I have
written around 30 songs up to date and would like to
launch my CD soon. However I don’t have the required
funds to launch my CD," Ramodi explained.
Rashmi does Kandyan
dancing and ballet. She is a talented singer as well.
However her mother’s income is not sufficient to send
her for dancing classes. Ramodi and Rashmi residing at
No. 27, Station Road, Ratmalana have appealed for help
to make their dreams a reality.
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