An ugly institution depicted through the sublime medium of dance

March 18,2019

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Those with an artistic bent of mind, imbued with aesthetic sense, must have had a real treat on Friday evening with the performance of a Sri Lankan dance troupe at the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa).

The performance, to say the least, was simply exquisite. There were no dialogues or monologues. Just dance movements which narrated the ugly institution slavery is. The performance was titled ‘Wahala’ (slavery). What was really noteworthy was the lithe, supple frames of the stars and the flexibility of their forms.

The movements were accompanied by music which for the most part was psychedelic. The movements were synchronised with the crescendos and the troughs of the music.

However, there were short spells of indigenous South Asian classical music too. The agility and the nimble-footed movements were a treat to watch. So were the facial expressions conveying misery and pain which go with the vicious institution.

Slavery was connoted by arrow-like sharp pointed objects around the stars’ necks. It was sixty minutes of a highly exquisite dance performance, one which reminded us of how very brutal we human beings were capable of being.

Besides, it was a highly imaginatively planned and innovative show. It opened with black and white pictures of the advent of slavery in the USA towards the beginning of the Nineteenth Century. It was an irony to see the most vicious kind of slavery having its advent in a country that pontificates on the values of civility and compassion to the world. It showed a newspaper Advert with the message, “Negro for only 1250 dollars. Works really hard”. Thus it showed the depths of beastly cruelty human nature is capable of sinking to.

There were also pictures of errant black slaves (in those days referred to contemptuously as negroes), hanging from crosses by ropes around their necks. Thus the performance was as educative as artistic.


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