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Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Sri Lanka and the Republic of Korea 2017

Interview with Choreographer and Percussionist Ravibandhu Vidyapathi

The following are details of an interview with Percussionist Ravibandhu Vidyapathi of Sri lanka conducted by The Korea post media on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Sri Lanka.—Ed.

1. Please introduce the main topics of the repertoire, including:

a. Swathi

Ceremonial drums and chants followed by Traditional Kandyan dance. Kandyan dance encompasses various dance forms native to the area called Kandy of the central hills region in Sri Lanka. But today it has been widespread to other parts of the country.

b. Naga Raksha

Traditional mask dance in low country style depicting the ferocity of the Cobra Demon. Raksha masks are also used to perform Raksha dances in Kolam Maduwa. According to legends, Sri Lanka was earlier ruled by a race called Rakshasas whose king was Ravana of the Ramayana. Rakshasas could assume various forms. Although they have 24 forms of Rakshasas only few are performed in Kolam dance.

c. Gajaga

Movements of the elephant, kandyan dance based on a traditional Vannam song. The Vannams were inspired by nature, history, religion and folk lore, and each is composed and interpreted in the mood or expression based on its theme.

Gajaga, Gahaka, Asadrusha, Udara and Thuranga Vannams - in praise respectively of the conch shell at the King’s consecration, the royal elephant, the king’s glory, monarchy and the chariot-horse – were the first written. The corpus later grew to eighteen Vannams.

d. Krishna

A creative dance. The Hindu god Krishna dancing with devotees. Krishna is the god of compassion, tenderness and love in Hinduism. He is one of the most widely revered and popular Indian divinities, worshipped as the eighth incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu and as Svayam Bhagavan (supreme god) in his own right.

2. What is the background of the tour and performance of the troupe in Korea this time?

We were invited by the Embassy of Sri Lanka to celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Korea. Korea foundation collaborated in this venture with the Embassy. We have two performances in Korea – at the Korean National Theater and in Gwangju at the Asia Culture Center. I am a member of Asia Dance Advisory Committee that is hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Korea. Dancers from 16 countries were invited to the opening ceremony of the Asia Culture Center and our Committee was advising on different cultures and traditions of the member countries.

3. Please briefly introduce the Troupe of Ravibandhu Vidyapathy

My wife and I established Ravibandhu Samanthi Dance Ensemble in 1982 in collaboration with our dance school in Colombo. Samanthi is my wife’s name. The troupe focuses on promoting Sri Lanka’s traditional dances, as well as contemporary dances. Once in two years we put up a big production. Last year it was a Ballet Drama based on Shakespeare’s Othello. Today we performed a scene from my previous staging of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I have produced three ballets based on Shakespeare’s works, various modern performances and projects about our country’s civil riots and some cross-cultural projects. I have been working in many countries around the globe from New York to Tokyo. The biggest performances were at the US Kennedy Center, at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London and Bozar Theater in Belgium. Two years ago we were invited to perform at the Sejeong Art Center. This is my tenth visit to Korea. We have performed at different festivals here. And it is an honor to perform at the Korean National Theater this time. Once a year we usually go on one or two tours.

4. Please briefly introduce the personal history of Mr. Vidyapathy

I come from a traditional dancers’ family. I am the sixth generation of traditional Kandyan dancers. My father is a painter and my mother is a dancer. My son and daughter are also in the troupe, they were performing here tonight. My wife is a dancer as well. I started practicing traditional Kandyan dance and later I went to study Indian dance forms in Kerala, India. Since 1982 I have been working on various traditional and contemporary dance works. I have two streams of creative work. One is a dance and the other is drumming. Drumming is a great thing and as you saw in the show today, drums are a very important part of our culture. My creative work with drums also extends to working with Symphony Orchestras, for instance, Chinese Symphony Orchestra and Asian Symphony Orchestra four years ago at the Opera City Hall in Japan. So we cooperate a lot with international dance and music companies.

5. Please state whatever I might have left out from the important facts about the performance.

Besides running my own company, I am an artistic director of Sri Lanka’s National Dance Company called State Dance Ensemble. Currently I am also an advisor to the Minister of Culture.

6. Do you have a plan to collaborate with Korean artist? If you don't have any plan, Who is the Korean musician that you are interested in?

Of course, I would love to collaborate with some Korean artists, ideally including both dancing and musical projects. I know some artists here, for example, the former artistic director of the Korean National Contemporary Dance Company. I would like to do some collaboration with one of those mainly contemporary dance companies. I really admire the high standard of Eastern classical music, Korean traditional dance and Korean traditional music. I don’t know all those artists by their names, but I have seen a lot of wonderful performances of Korean artists, contemporary and traditional. They have very high technical standards. It would be great to collaborate with some Korean traditional samulnori drum performers as well. In the near future I am planning to approach organizers of Korean festivals, such as Sea Dance Festival. After we go back to Sri Lanka we will start preparations for performances and collaboration projects in China. Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between

Sri Lanka and the Republic of Korea in 2017

Sri Lanka Film Fest Retrospective of Contemporary Sri Lankan Cinema

Movie Director Asoka Handagama

From June 23-25, the Korea Foundation and the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Korea will host the SRI LANKA FILM FEST, a retrospective of contemporary Sri Lankan cinema, at the CGV Myeongdong Station Cine Library in commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and the Republic of Korea. The festival presents five internationally acclaimed films by Sri Lankan film directors using different genres and narrative techniques to explore unique facets of Sri Lankan life.

Veteran Sri Lankan filmmaker Dr. Lester James Peiris cited Asoka Handagama’s third feature film, “This is My Moon” (Me Mage Sandai), as the film that launched the third revolution in Sri Lankan cinema. “This is My Moon”, winner of the Woosuk Award for Best Film at the 2nd Jeonju International Film Festival, and his follow-up film, “Flying with One Wing” (Tani tatuwen piyabanna), which won awards at film festivals in San Sebastián, Tokyo and Turin, both deal with the harsh socio-political realities in Sri Lankan society, exemplifying Handagama oeuvre that always explores new territories and narrative styles. At its 33rd edition in 2013, the Amiens International Film Festival in France paid tribute to Handagama’s contribution to the development of independent cinema in Asia by featuring six of his films in a special “Hommage”. “Let Her Cry” is his eighth full-length feature.

Sean Kim  edt@koreapost.com

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