By Chamitha Kuruppu
Forget about men, even women seem to be raving about their hourglass figures and pretty faces. We might have seen these ravishing beauties hundreds of times on TV but yet, the moment Channa Wijewardena`s dancing troupe appears - our jaws drop, not only for their alluring dancing moves but also for their mesmerising expressions, and of course tiny waist lines.
Lakbimanews had a candid chat with these beauties (who still looked pretty sans makeup) a few hours before they left to Singapore for a show and found out that dedication and single minded focus was the secret that makes them stand out from the crop.
`There are no strict rules and regulations,` says veteran dancer Channna Wijewardena. `The girls know what is required to remain in the troop. They practice and exercise daily and watch what they eat,` he points out.
Channa`s state of the art dancing studio is also equipped with a weighing scale and exercising machines. `Girls are permitted to eat whatever they want but it is their responsibility to make sure they burn those extra calories the following day,` he stresses.
The forty member troupe is required to exercise and practice daily from 10 am till 3 pm. Apart from practice sessions the team also engages in meditation and yoga exercises. According to troupe members choreography lectures by Channa too helps in no small measure.
When Channa and his wife Upuli first started the Performing Arts Academy in 1988 some students refused to come for classes, objecting to his teaching methods. `They didn`t like the long hours of exercising. They said they came to learn dancing not to play football or cricket,` says Channa in a lighter note.
But twenty years down the line, securing a place in this prestigious dancing troupe is almost every youth`s passion. From international performances, award ceremonies and product launches, Channa and his dancing troupe are entertaining people from all walks of life.
We queried about the marvellous coordination among them when it comes to performing. `You should never perform for the audience,` stresses Channa. `A performer should perform for himself first. Being confident is equally important.` The secret behind those spellbinding expressions is worth an explanation. `I don`t teach them how to smile on stage. When you enjoy your own performance you tend to take pleasure in every moment of it,` quips Channa.
Vindya Warakagoda one of the oldest members of Channa`s dancing troupe is back in the team after a four year break studying in America. `Channa sir has his own identity. I am inspired by this unique style of his. I must have been 15 when I first came to the class,` recalls Vindya. Her self confidence surfaces when she says she managed to secure a place in Channa`s dancing troupe within a year`s time. `It was like a dream come true,` she notes.
Vindya who uses her fifth passport at present has visited over 30 countries with the troupe. `Some days we have more than six events to perform. On such days we divide into two or three teams. There are instances where clients insist on having their favourite members of the troupe,` explains Vindya.
Twenty-seven-year old Nadeeka Perera
, another prominent member has been in the main troupe for over a decade. `This has been my childhood dream,` she says adding that they are `a big happy family` and that she enjoys every single moment they spend together.
`This is our profession. And we all love it. Some days we have over five shows to perform. But we never feel stressed out. Thanks to our experience we know how to cope with such hectic schedules,` Nadeeka points out.
Asked what she hopes to do once she is out of the troupe Nadeeka explained, `I know I will have to leave this troupe one day. Maybe when I reach 40! Then, I would love to continue working with Channa sir and Upuli miss.`
Petite Rasuni Manora is no doubt every guy`s sweetheart following her remarkable performance in Randhir`s foot tapping number Na Mal Mitak and Bathiya and Santhush`s song Paya Ena Sandawatha Manaram.
We queried from Rasuni about their controversial revealing outfits and accusations of showing of skin. `People are free to make comments. Such accusations depend on the thinking of such people who make those allegations. Our costumes are designed according to the items we perform,` she pointed out. `It was my mother
who took me to Channa when I was six years old. We all have the blessings of our parents and families,` she added. Asked whether she feels popular, Rasuni shot back `Yes. People recognise us. But we don`t feel troubled by such popularity. We consider that as a blessing.`
Natalia Ravindran too has been in the troupe for the last ten years. Asked how they maintain such great figures she said, `We don`t diet or control our food intake. But we are pretty much concerned of what we eat.` She also revealed that most of the members are vegetarian and others aspire to giving up consuming meat.
Queried whether she has any favourite shows of their various performances Natalie says, `I like all of them. I can`t pick one and say this is my favourite. But we are all excited about the upcoming show Thala 2008 that will be on show on February 29 and March 01.`
Twenty-two-year old Shamitha Hettige who Channa rates as one of the best male dancers in Sri Lanka says the exposure and experience he has gained during the past seven years has helped him immensely to achieve what he is today. `When I was young, I dreamt of becoming a member of Channa sir`s dancing troupe. When I saw them dance on TV I thought that was the best thing that could ever happen. After seven years, I feel the same way. But today I know what a lot of commitment and focus you need to be that glamorous dancer on stage,` he asserts.