Chandana undisputed king of Choreography- by Sunil Thenabadu
Chandana’s parents when was a little kid had observed their little son beating and stroking his little feet, swaying his tiny limbs, twirling, twisting and jerking his tiny agile body to a sequence of a rhythmic beat. This was not hereditary as it was not a spectacle or repetition seen in their ancestors. Very appropriately the parents Upali and Lalitha had identified his innate prowess had admitted him to a Kandyan dance school.
This was the beginning of the career that blossomed to be the legendary choreographer Chandana Wickremasinghe who is now a secure decoration to Sri Lankan traditional dancing, integrating Bharatha, Kathakali. Manipuri, Far-Eastern combined with abundant global styles.
As all dancers typically Chandana teaches complex dance movements that need to entertain audiences, rehearse several hours with dedication to prepare for events, study new and emerging types to interpret and modify the routines. As any choreographer place together moves to create novel dances or interpretations of existing dances, choosing the idyllic music to accompany. Chandana studies new and emerging types of dance to strategize more creative dance routines deviating from the boredom monotony.
As Chandana matured he had absorbed what he observed had integrated all the time. Chandana was appreciative of another dancer’s work of art, no matter whether he is a novice or a prodigy in the field. He used to compliment extending humble appreciation along with an apt ovation.
Chandana had studied his initial steps in dancing at the Chitrasena School of Dance. However his debut at professional level was at Kulasiri Budawatta Dance Academy was the first student to obtain ‘Ves’, the top most spot in the Kandyan dancing custom in 1986 at which time he was a teenager just sixteen years old. The parents were not pleased about Chandana’s magnetism towards his inborn aptitude as the elder brother Hasitha’s talent for academic studies was sky high.
While at Mahanama College had obtained five distinctions and three credits opted to do Bio Science for Advanced Level. Parents had not minded Chandana prolonging dancing only as a hobby not as a vocation as no one in their generation was highly placed in the traditional vocations in conventional inclinations, but none in Performing Arts.
Chandana had fared disastrously in the Advanced Level which was not going to help him to enter the University.Hence as an option Chandana joined Sama Ballet Troupe founded by Naveen Gunaratne performing under dance Directors Professor Mudiyanse Dissanayake, Ravibandu Vidyapathy.It was with this troupe Chandana was visible performing in foreign stages socialised with foreign dancers having performed in seventeen countries. He was involved in this process to be rather stagnated for eight long years.
At this point his maternal Uncle a former Dean of the management faculty of the University of Sri Jayewardenapura University proposed that he should obtain a professional qualification in dancing as the only way out to prosper. This prompted Chandana when he was twenty eight years old then in Year 1993 to enter the Vishwa Bharthi-Shanthi Nikethan in North Bengal.This Ashram was founded by renowned guru Ravindranath Tagore. Chandana was determined to study amidst so many attractive female students’ sans distraction focussing his concentration only to his studies. During his gruelling tenure of over six years he had mastered Kathakali,Manipuri and various other conventional dances of Bharatha Desh.In 1997 when Chandana returned as a universal dancer he was the only one of its kind in Sri Lanka.
Very soon Chandana established his Dancers’ Guild with only four students at his home garage in Ratmalana.The garage was subsequently elevated to a three storey structure thereafter opened branches in Matara,Kandy,Nittambuwa ,Gampaha and Kadawatha where thousands of children were taught traditional Kandyan dancing, forms of classical dances, drumming etc,
The dancing Guild was expanded to an entertainment Academy where the students perform admirably on commercial stages for a wide clientele. Four mega ballet productions, Mayura Sandeshaya (Peacock Dance), Story of Sitha,Kanya ( Virgin) and Salamba ( Anklet) were launched. The troupe has travelled to perform these productions factually with 40 foreign dancing professionals in 76 countries around the globe, keeping audiences spellbound.
Graceful inspiring Chandana has conquered the Sri Lankan cinema as well. He has choreographed twenty-four films including the epic blockbuster – Kusa Pabawithi, Pattini, Yashodara, Ali Katawa and Aba In addition, he had adjudicated on the panel of judges for city dance and little star, dancing talent shows on TV Derana, assisting to lay a spirited groundwork for young dancing talents in the country, during the past decade.
Chandana is blessed with a happy family. Dilhani, his charming spouse, a former Sub-Editor in the Dinamina Sinhala daily has been the pillar of his success cum the shadow behind him. Their 21-year-old beautiful daughter, Devangi though following in her father’s footsteps has selected IT as her focus. She is a final year student studying Cyber Security at the Western Sydney University, Australia. Their twin sons – Thanuga and Manuga are still in Grade six, excels in sports along with academic triumphs.
All three children are students at Lyceum International School, Panadura. The twin sons have been given the freedom to excel in whatever line they are talented in, while dancing may only be a pastime. It is too early to foresee whether they would take over the dancing academy.
To learn dancing, according to maestro Chandana one should have talent and rhythm. One should have commitment, which most of our Sri Lankan children lack. Most of our children and youth are very lazy, living in their own negative and wicked world. This may be due to the dull, pessimistic, tedious, and hefty curriculum they follow from pre-grade to Advanced Levels. Consistent tuition intensifies this burden. The mobile phone is a vulgarity given to them by their parents. Lack of parent-child communication, sans strict discipline causes consistent damage to the contemporary youth generation. It is a despairing state that needs a speedy solution, is his view.
Chandana is very strict with his students, dance the performing art, a combination of motions and emotions comes second as in future life girls are to become mothers. The entire troupe should have the attributes to be obedient, committed, disciplined, methodical apart from their innate abilities. To monitor the above Chandana while in office monitors the CCTV screen, beside his office desk to observe the behaviour of his students while conducting classes at his dance guilds. Male and female students need to perform in a sequence of close intimacy in a stance blended with lust and passion. This sensuality is only for the duration of the particular item, If Chandana senses any personal relationship he would not hesitate to request them to leave as discipline is a precedence. But while the troupe is on tour Chandana is a bit lenient as the troupe consists of the young generation.
Chandana has bumpily four thousand students mostly teenages. However if any adult need to join despite age to refresh the steps learnt some time back, to lose weight or for cheerfulness there is absolutely not a tint of red tape.
To date Chandana had participated in concerts overseas perhaps his name is better known among people in overseas countries. Most of his awards received to date have been from overseas. Some of the awards received during the past decade are:
Choreography award at Derana Lux film awards ceremony, Brisla award UK, Drums and Appreciation award ,Dubai,Best Choreography, Derana Sunsilk awards ceremony, Best Choreography Presidential film awards ceremony, Auodhya research institute, Department of Culture, Government of Uttar Pradesh,India, Masso awards, National Council of Culture, Art letters, Kuwait and Auodhya award ,Faizabad,Uttar Pradesh,India.
Associated full time with dancing Chandana had confessed there are a plenty of scope in associated fields as drumming, musical instruments, engineering costumes, jewellery. Makeup, lighting, sounds, orchestra, music, lyrics, choirs, stage provisions, photography. event management, physical training video recording, tourism promotion, foreign tours which are all open to job opportunities and business entities opportunities. Chandana has emphasized that youth should focus on the above in particular to the sluggish chaotic youth who just waste time rallying for state careers. Unless youth opt to penetrate these opportunities according to Chandana Sri Lanka would remain in the chart as a developing state. It is the fervent hope of Chandana that the rulers would amend the stale school and university syllabuses with appositive mindset for youth to be active. independent, self-sufficient , fruitful and productive.
Chandana dance troupe is a household name etched in gold among Sri Lankans here and his followers in seventeen overseas countries. It would be the fervent hope of all that Chandana would get more nerve to propel above giving opportunities to many aspiring youth to find self-employment in the choreography craft ,which is a gigantic need of the hour.
Sunil Thenabadu in Brisbane