Neydorff - Portrait of a dancer
it would seem is mostly based on two main themes, the abstract and fantasy
or real life situations. Be it in music and dance or painting and poetry
these two routes remain a much traveled path from the time of caveman murals
to the palettes and boards of the 21st century modernists. But on occasion
the twain has been known to have merged.
/Choreographer Menik Neydorff, believes that art can only justify its
existence when it has had some form of impact on its audience. One has to
only see Menik dancing to realise that this is indeed a truly creative
dancer who is in tune with her body and in accordance with the music of life
itself. Small made and seemingly frail, given to languid movements and a
laid back persona, she seems to take on a totally different personality when
her dancing feet hit the floor. Her dancing seems at once intuitive and
dynamic. Flexibility, passion and power combine with exuberance and sinuous,
flowing motion all speaking in what can only be described as poetry in
a great admirer of contemporary dance, Menik refuses to accept the
limitations of being boxed and labeled. She incorporates various styles of
dance into her repertoire, borrowing from classical, jazz, hip hop, tribal,
ethnic and free style dance forms and fusing them to form a dance style that
is her very own. And what makes her dance items even more unique are the
interesting and unusual pieces of music she choreographs to.
she enthuses "in its varied forms can and has literally changed the
lives of people." A
philosophy that can be readily understood when one realises that Menik
Neydorff was born into a family of artistes who are no strangers to the Sri
Lankan art world.
took to painting at an early age, winning the class art prize at her school
Bishop's College, on a regular basis. Her mother was a major influence in
art and literature during those early years, introduced her to classical
music and helped shape her aesthetic. Her father, athletic coach and sports
journalist Harry Jayewardene played the piano, guitar, harmonica and sang.
"He used to bring us records like Stevie Wonder and the Beatles."
recalls Menik who loves music passionately.
what made Menik take to dancing? "I used to sing in a band called
Gobbledegook and Sweetiepie, when I was 16" says Menik. "And the
then band leader Nimal Gunewardene (today marketing guru and CEO of Bates
Strategic Alliance) decided to produce Jesus Christ Superstar and asked me
to take part in it." It was there that she met choreographer Senaka De
Silva who is today probably more recognised as a prominent designer.
Superstar proved to be a turning point in young Menik's life. She fell in
love with dancing.
dancing different to any other art form? "Yes" affirms Menik who
also used to sing with legendary local rock band Unwanted Generation in the
late '70s. "Apart from singing, most other arts you tend to use various
instruments and mediums. But in dancing your whole body is your instrument.
This aspect gives dancing a totally different dimension. When you are
dancing and you can reach that special 'place' that's when you can free your
De Silva realising Menik's talent, decided to take her under his wing and
she studied with him for over two years. During the formative years of her
dancing, sister Manel who she says was a fantastic dancer and used to dance
with Vajira, became her mentor. "She taught me a lot about my body and
showed me exercises to improve my technique" says Menik.
also turned Menik onto Yoga. Today she conducts a yoga class at Sue's school
of music and arts. In subsequent years, Menik also discovered Tai-Chi.
Practice of these ancient arts proved to be of enormous benefit to her
dancing. "Yoga gave me flexibility and the art of relaxation. While
through tai-chi which is a martial art, I was able to connect to my
"center", that wellspring of energy, enabling me to dance with
much more power. Tai-Chi also gave me far more muscle control and how I
expressed myself with arm movement was elevated to a different dimension
started to teach dance in 1989 and began to choreograph in '88. The fact
that music is such a huge motivating force in her life gave her a terrific
advantage in her efforts. Soon she and her dancers were moving to the sounds
of rock from artists like Joe Satriani and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, jazz
from Chick Corea and Stanly Clarke, synthesizer music of Tangerine Dream and
Patrick Moraz as well as classical, ethnic and African tribal music.
"When I hear a piece of music, I envision movement" she confesses.
"Depending on the music, I see a group of dancers, a duo or a single
figure. The music always dictates.
when I start to choreograph, things begin to evolve and change but the
original thread of thought will remain." One rule she firmly follows is
that if she is asked to choreograph for existing show pieces she will never
watch the original. "That would influence me and I want to be
completely original" she says.
choreography came into its own in '89 when I was asked to do a hair show
called 'Cascade' by Thilina of Talking Heads. I was given the freedom I
needed to create and use whatever music I thought was appropriate'' explains
Menik. Since then she has performed in or choreographed many shows including
Miss Sri Lanka, Mrs. Sri Lanka, Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the year,
Rotary International and Slim Awards to mention a few, with her group The
Kinetic Dance Project. She also
teaches at the Creative Center of Arts and is very active in school
productions. Institutions like, Museus College, S. Thomas,' C.I.S., Brisbane
International and Overseas Children's School have all benefited from her
expertise. The Kinetic Dance Project also performs at product launches and
shows at the request of ad agencies.
present Menik is the proud
mother of 18 year old Niren, continues to work in the family business Swanee
Batik as a designer and is hoping to have the first ever dance show of her
own in the near future. A show she hopes that will have depth and character,
void of the rigidness of the classical and the banality of show dancing and
be a celebration of the human spirit.
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