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Sunday, 8 November 2009

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Ballet: In search of excellence

Dancing does not come easy to each and everyone unless a youngster is ready, willing to dedicate her life for this fine art along with sheer determination that will enable her to reach the top. A success story rests on years of dancing.

The staff at Deanna School of Dancing who are preparing 300 students for the examinations conducted by the Royal Academy of Dance, London. From left to right: Roshalie Fernando, Natasha Jayasuriya, Mrs. Deanna Jayasuriya, Principal-DSD, Natalie Atilla, Ayumi Ratnakumara and Shonaka Ranatunge.

Ballet does not stop there; it has a common syllabus to study and dance each and every step and movement classified there. Whether in Sri Lanka or elsewhere around the world, every dance school will prepare its students in line with this syllabus for the examinations held by the Royal Academy of Dance in London.

One cannot overemphasize the importance of sound training from the earliest years because it is during this time that a dancer acquires the important basis for sound training. A simple mistake repeated many times can become a major problem in the years ahead and can ruin the dancer of her rewarding career in ballet. This is where the observant teacher steps in and helps her overcome the hazard before it is too late. This is a clear picture of hard work a ballet student must realise and work towards its and to achieve her goal. There is no rest in between. The tempo must be maintained, her spirit held high with a combination of musicality and strength. Thus, she will perform a spectacular step with apparent ease and help realise the dream of her choreographer.

Sounds fantastic and it is possible.

The establishment of ballet took place in France although the very first steps were introduced in Italy. From the time France introduced ballet, all have to be aware of French terms that describe various positions, steps, movements as well as instructions. Thus, French became the universal language of ballet.

I do not wish to give students any ideas of the world of ballet beyond the classroom. The best source is the teacher who will from time to time prepare the students for the examinations conducted by the Royal Academy of Dance. They are an essential part of a future ballerina. What the teacher can do is to warn the students about common faults, and explain that little more about individual steps and to give the students good reasons why they do certain steps in certain ways day after day. Every little step has a firm place in the whole plan and once the students knows about that place, the whole picture will become clearer to the student.

These are the basics that lead a young ballerina from preliminaries to higher levels and from there, to professionalism. The teacher is there all the way, guiding, advising and pushing her along the right track which brings us back to such a dedicated teacher with decades of experience, with a name synonymous with ballet, Deanna Jayasuriya, teacher, dancer, choreographer and Principal of the Deanna School of Dancing.

A class in progress with Ayumi Ratnakumara and Roshalie Fernando.

As she prepares her students as many as over 300 of them towards the RAD examinations at different levels, she is ably supported by a professional team headed by a product from her own school, i e. Ayumi Ratnakumara who prepares some of the students and is an enthusiastic teacher who is determined to get excellent results. Ayumi joined Deanna School of Dancing when she was only two plus and completed her lessons at 18 when she left DSD. She read for a degree in classical ballet at the Royal Academy of Dance in London. Today, she is a qualified ballet teacher and the only Sri Lankan to have obtained the LRAD and ARAD besides obtaining her BA (Hons).

Ayumi is teaching in the UK presently but was able to find time for her roots and took wings to help out her school as well as her beloved teacher.

The girls are on their toes, at the barre and moving about with confidence to face the examinations scheduled in a couple of weeks time when the examiner from the Royal Academy of dance arrives.

In the meantime, the senior staff of the DSD are kept busy to achieve excellence. They are young Roshali Fernando (teacher), Natasha Jayasuriya (dancer, choreographer, teacher), Deanna Jayasuriya (Principal-DSD, dancer, teacher, choreographer), Natalie Atilla (dancer, teacher, choreographer), Ayumi Ratnakumara (dancer, teacher) and Shonaka Ranatunage (principal, dancer-DSD, teacher).

 

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