State Dance Ensemble who are on tour to the West at present, organised by the Sri Lanka Educational, Cultural and Welfare Foundation, Kingbury, NW London, are becoming a cluster of shining stars in Britain with their spectacular performances.
The troupe consisting of U. Dhanapala Rodrigo, T.M.P.B.Tennekoon, R.R.G.B. W. Senanayake, Mahinda Gunasiri Walpita, J.P. Jayathura, Preman Manthipathi, E.P. Karunaratne, Wilmot Nimal Prematilake, Vijith Pusphakumara, M.D. K. Tanuja Dilhani, K.K.V. Jasintha Priyadarshanie & S.L. Manor Chanrakala arrived in London on 28 August 97 for a very special performance at The Wembley Town Hall. They were sponsored by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in Sri Lanka and Air Lanka.
Their first performance in Britain hit the boards in Birmingham to the delight of a packed audience. Soon the word of mouth and telephone started to do wonders when Birmingham people started to contact their friends in London and encouraged and advised them not to miss the London show. In London, it was yet another grand performance, although at times audience was kept in suspense with live fire eating acts by two dancers on stage.
The next venue became Paris, the Sri Lanka Educational, Cultural and Welfare Foundation having already made prior arrangement for the ensemble to perform to a Paris audience. In the rush BBC Television too had made an appointment to have the ensemble in one of their popular family programmes, The Generation Game.
Within not even twenty four hours of their returning from Paris the troupe had to be at the BBC studios on 9 September, at 10 am., for a full day's rehearsal. After a hectic & grinding rehearsal session, the BBC started filming their electric performances in front of a live audience. Generation Game, as the name implies, is a contest to imitate performances of professionals by two participants - of two generations - generally a mother and son or a father and daughter. It was indeed hilarious to watch the finalists of the contest trying to keep up with the Sri Lankan dancers' quick foot work, somersaults and spin turns. The State Dance Ensemble certainly made their mark in front of the BBC professionals on that night. This was evident when one of the programme organisers, Sarah Parnel, decided to pen a letter of congratulations within twenty-four hours of filming the show. The letter addressed to Ven. Galayaye Piyadassi, The President of the Sri Lanka Educational, Cultural and Welfare Foundation and Mr. Chandra Monerawela, former Sri Lankan High Commissioner to London, stated as follows:
10 September 1997
Dear Ven. Piyadassi and Mr. Chandra
I am writing to thank you very much for all your help with organising the Sri Lanka State Dance Ensemble's appearance on the Generation Game last night. They were an absolute pleasure to work with and their performance on the show was spectacular.
I know it was a very long day for the dancers, especially considering their hectic schedule, but everyone carried on in good humour, which made the whole day a very pleasant experience for us all. Please also pass on my thanks and good wishes to Mr. De Silva ( Jith) who was of invaluable assistance throughout the day.
The audience thoroughly enjoyed the performance and I think that it was one of the best finales we have ever done on the series. We all wish the Sri Lanka State Dance Ensemble every success with all their future engagements - many Congratulations and thank you once again.
Sgd. Sarah Parnell
The State Dance Ensemble's finale in London will be their performance at Kingsbury High Scholl Hall on Friday 12th, the second show organised by the Cultural and Welfare Foundation due to popular request. The troupe will fly back to Colombo by Air Lanka on Saturday12th each carrying a Congratulatory Certificate from the Sri Lanka Educational, Cultural and Welfare Foundation for their excellent performances in the UK .
The hard work put into this tour by The Ministry of Cultural Affairs in
Sri Lanka and The Sri Lanka Educational, Cultural and Welfare Foundation
in London to make it a success needs to be recognised not merely because
they managed to bring Lankan dance forms and culture to millions of
sitting rooms all over the world when the BBC programme comes on to the
TV screens in November, but they have, as a team, been able to place Sri
Lanka on another new pedestal in the publicity world.