By Thilak S. Fernando

F.A.M.E does not necessarily mean seeking fame. It is the abbreviation used to identify , one of the Sri Lankan Associations in the UK , organisers of which have committed themselves to work towards welfare and education of orphans in Sri Lanka who have become innocent victims of the ethnic war. FAME achieves this task successfully in the UK by organising fund raising events from its headquarters at Letchworth, Hertfordshire, and a Branch in London, through active involvement in the areas of Sinhala Films, Arts and Music for Education, the bottom line of which is also to sustain Sri Lankan culture and propagate those among the Sri Lankan expatriates and to relate to other ethnic groups and the British community.

Sinhala New Year is one occasion where FAME goes out of their way, both in terms of location and in their thinking, to get the best out of the Sri Lankan talent based in the UK. Their shows are not free yet the revenue generated is used to give the optimum assistance to the victimised orphans in Sri Lanka in numerous ways.

This year FAME decided to travel from Hertfordshire to Modern, Surrey to host a programme. On 18 April they transformed the Cheam High School hall into an assemblage where professionalism, rhythm, agility and versatality of four Sri Lankan damsels were seen to unveil. It was sensational to watch how the curvy and supple young female rhymic body movements, complimenting each other with colourful costumes moving swiftly to rhythmic drum beats. It could have been four angels floating on air rather than four human bodies on stage; someone was heard whispering from the audience.

Another feather in the FAME's cap on this occasion was the bringing out to the forefront a well talented Sri Lankan lady, Kamalanganie Perusinghe, a student of Sri Lanka's dance maestro Pani Bharatha, who has been living several years in London as a ' flower born to blush unseen' in this concrete jungle and 'wasting its sweetness' for far too long.

Kamalanganie graduated in oriental dancing in 1960 after being a student of Maestro Panibharata for six years. She toured India with the first Cultural Troupe in Sri Lanka with Panibharatha, Chitrasena, Amaradeva and several others. She later took part in Yama Vijaya, Bathe Upatha ballet. In 1960 she worked as a Teacher in Kandyan Dancing, and from 1974 to 1980 at the Aesthetic School of Dancing as a trained choreographic lecturer in Kandyan dancing. Since coming over to the UK with her family in 1980, she decided to be a nondescript until very recently Secretary of The Association of Sri Lankans in the UK, Bandula Rajaratne, encouraged her to pass her dancing talents to the young Sri Lankan expatriate children in London. The outcome was her first show, a cultural programme for the Association of Sri Lankans in the UK.

Persuaded by FAME and encouraged by her husband, popular Sri Lankan film Gamini Abeysinghe, Kamalanganie opened up a new dancing school in Surrey - Surrey School of Sri Lankan Dancing - where Eresha Palehipitiya, Dilhani Parehipitiya Kanchana Rajaratne and Niklusha Jayasinghe mesmerised the audience on 18 April with Pooja, Gajaga, Kandyan-Low Country Coalesce, Pantheru and Harvest dances. One cannot avoid but overhears during cultural shows comments such as : 'when you have seen one Kandyan or Pahatharata netuma you have seen them all' ! But the swift movements of dancers made a distinct difference on this occasion, the full credit for which goes to Kamalanganie Perusinghe.

From the very start the young dancers managed to communicate with the audience where a pin drop could be heard. Kanchana Rajaratne and Eresha Palehipitiya performed an invocation dance, a completely new original version of Kamalanganie where one danced holding a clay pot with pol mal in it and the other holding a sheaf of beetle - quite appropriate with the Sinhala New Year feeling. Low country and Kandyan coalesce was a mixture of the two types inter-changing from one to another briskly and rhythmically to an equally vibrating drum beat played by Kamalanganie's sister, Padmini Perusinghe. This was the first time a Udarata-pahatarata coalesce was danced on a London stage. The icing of the cake of the evening could be regarded as a special dance that depicted the story of a soldier who gave his life to preserve the unity, integrity and peace to Sri Lanka.

Kamalangani's husband, Gamini Abeysinghe, compered the show. Those who are familiar with the Sinhala cinema need no introduction to Gamini. His acting career started in 1956 in Daskama film followed by Deepashika, Me Desa Kumatada, Suhada Pathuma, Sinavai Inavai, Sudu Paraviyo, Hadawathaka Vasanthaya, Sangeetha etc.

An impressive feature of the show where other organisers in London could take a lesson from was how considerately the stage management was done. After every act, while the next act was being prepared, a vocalist - Manel - played an electric organ while singing Sinhala hits. As an added bonus the London heartthrob in music ' Dennis' filled the gaps.

To quote the Mayors of Cheam, who was the Chief Guest at the function - "The costumes of the dancers were beautiful and the show was beyond this world". The dancers, Perusinghe family and the Organiser of FAME Mrs. Latha Gunatunghe were given a standing ovation during the curtain call.