Dancing is like dreaming on your feet | Sunday Observer

Dancing is like dreaming on your feet

Danseuse Aseka Wijewardene mesmorises audiences with exquisitely, graceful dancing and evocative, expressions. It is no wonder that Aseka is such a unique dancer for rhythm and dance flows in the blood of this third generation danseuse. Her parents are the internationally renowned dancing duo Channa Wijewardene and Upuli Pani Bharatha Wijewardene while her maternal grandfather is the legendary Guru of Dance, Pani Bharatha.

The name Aseka means one who knows all (siyalla dath) and she is indeed a veritable fount of knowledge about dance especially where traditional Sri Lankan dance is concerned.

Aseka is grace and femininity personified be it on stage or in real life. Dainty and slight of build, she has a beautiful, vivacious and expressive face and eyes, great assets for a dancer.

Even before she formally started learning traditional Sri Lankan dancing at eight years of age, Aseka had been character acting on stage and one such role was the role of Prince Siddhartha.

Today, Aseka is one of the principal dancers of the Channa-Upuli Dance Foundation which her illustrious parents founded in 1988. Even though a principal dancer Aseka says that she still has much to learn and has a long way to go.

Aseka has experienced the best of both worlds in dancing. She has studied Western classical ballet under Deanna Jayasuriya – a Grande dame of ballet in Sri Lanka. Though she loved it Aseka had to bid adieu to ballet as there are differences of style and movement in Western classical ballet and traditional Sri Lankan dances. Ballet is essentially a feminine, airy form of dance while traditional Sri Lankan dances are strong and to make a complete switch from one dance form to the other while practising both, was difficult. Aseka has embraced the traditional Sri Lankan dance forms with her heart and soul. A true daughter of Lanka she is very proud of the country’s rich cultural heritage and dance traditions. She finds them exciting and inspiring and she reveres them. Therefore, she is meticulous in adhering to the dance traditions of our land, as a proud exponent of Sri Lankan dance.

She gladly endures grueling hours of exercise and practise and many hours on stage to give of her best to the profession she loves and she makes sacrifices too. What a normal young girl enjoys like hanging out with friends and other such entertainment are not for her. If at all she hangs out with friends from the industry where after a show or rehearsal they may go for dinner or something similar. Aseka says that she is lucky that her school friends from Ladies College and other friends understand her. For Aseka the sacrifices she makes are worth it for the sake of dance and of course she has her parents as inspiration. She also had the fortune of having her iconic maternal grandfather, the late Pani Bharatha as a great influence in her life and profession.

According to Aseka every movement, every step and embellishment in the traditioal Sri Lankan dance signify religious and spiritual elements, which give them depth and make them unique.

Aseka is a feminist to her core and she always brings this to whichever dance form she portrays. This trait in her comes from mother Upuli’s aunt who was one of the first female dancers who brought feminine grace to the art of Kandyan Dancing. Aseka says that some of the movements had to be stylised in a way suited to Upuli’s aunt.

Aseka explained that the beautiful, rhythmic, regal Kandyan dance has rigid and straight lines of movement and that it is also very powerful and masculine with throbbing Thalas. Aseka brings feminine grace to these masculine movements seamlessly incorporating into the dance enhancing its beauty while preserving its tradition.

The low country dance forms are more feminine and exquisitely beautiful as are the Sabaragamuwa dance forms unique to that Province says Aseka and this young danseuse loves them and enjoys performing these dances.

Dance is a very communicative art form and you should use your body, hands and face to convey what the dance is about to the audience she says.

Aseka is also a choreographer and has choreographed many dances and her inspiration comes from many things. She focuses on beauty and feminity in her postures, expressions and movements.

She loves the Indian dances, especially the Odyssey as they are feminine and fluid. She also likes the Thai dances and admires their costumes.

Though she reveres traditional dance forms, Aseka fully believes that you should move with the times. So she encourages Fusion Dance in a seamless blend of the Orient and the Occident and of the old and the new. The different elements should complement and not detract or jar against each other says this young dancer who is at home performing any form of dance.

Aseka is a much travelled dancer who is a cultural ambassador for Sri Lanka. She has performed at prestigious venues like the Sydney Opera House, Kennedy Centre in Washington and the Miller Theatre in Houston, USA among other noteworthy venues.

This talented dancer’s advice to aspiring artistes is you have to have a passion and commitment towards what you do and be ready to work hard and sacrifice much.

Asked about her future plans she says she strives to be better and better at what she does.

Good luck Aseka and may you dance from success to success!

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