Professionalizing Cultural Dancers for Future Tourism and International Opportunities

Introductory Session & Initial Talent Audition for Delft Island and Kilinochchi from 22nd  – 25th  April 2021

Cultural Dancing & Performing Arts sector is identified as one of the major players under the tourism amenities cluster in the tourism value chain. Modern traveller who prefers the community tourism activities would like to enjoy the cultural entertainment activities native to the respective destination. Yet, as an emerging destination for tourism, Northern Province cultural dancers were not professionally engaged or formed as a cultural troupe in tourism at present. In order to professionalise this micro based cultural dancers as a group in order to convert them into revenue generating sector under the tourism value chain, Northern Tourism launched a pilot programme in Delft Island and Kilinochchi under the supervision of Kilinochchi District Secretariat and Delft Divisional Secretariat. The introductory session and initial audition were conducted from 22nd  to 25th  April 2021 by a renown professional dancing  troupe  in  Colombo,  Lakshaman  Manchanayake  Dancing  Academy.  42  Cultural Dancers from Delft Island and 47 Youth dancers from Kilinochchi District representing the societies attended the initial audition.

Kilinochchi Programme

Youth  dancers  attended  the  introductory  and  initial  talent  audition  on  24th   &  25th   April  2021  held  in

Kilinochchi, Divisional Secretariat Cultural Hall.

Kilinochchi  being  the  connecting  land  which  has  boundaries  for  all  five  districts  of  the Northern Province has a to play a significant role in attracting tourists for a longer stay. Such activities  like  cultural dancing  acts  as  a  self-promotional  tool  for  a destination  once  it is promoted  in  international  markets.  The  practical  examples  like  Kandyan  Dancer  being famous  among  thousands  of  tourists  in  the  destination  of  Kandy,  Sri  Lanka  provides evidence for this model. Understanding the fact, Kilinochchi was chosen as another pilot to showcase  the  connectivity  of  Cultural  Dancing  with  the  other  value  chain  clusters  in Northern Tourism.

The introductory session and audition were organised by the Cultural Affairs Division of Kilinochchi  District  Secretariat  under  the  guidance  of  Mrs.  R.  Ketheeswaran,  District Secretary of Kilinochchi and Mr. Shirimohanan, Additional District Secretary of Kilinochchi.

Kilinochchi  dancing  group  is  a  combination  of  artists  those  who  has  skills  in  Bharatha Natyam, Kathakali and other folk dancing methods. The artists are geographically located in  Pachillaipalli,  Karaichi,  Kanadavalai  and  Poonagari  Divisional Secretariats.  Currently, they operate as dancing clubs namely Art’s friends club Pachillaipalli, Jannu Arangetram Arts Club Karaichi, Sivajanalaya Arts Club Karaichi, Kalai Olizi Arts Club Kanadavalai, Kanagi Narthanalaya Poonagari, Sivakalai Natiyalaya Karaichi,      Krishna      Arts      Club, Poonagari, Indrakumar Jilanai Pachillaipalli, Mahadewa Swamikal Society in Kilinochchi. All societies are connected under the District Secretariat in order to be professionalised for future opportunities in national and international platforms.

“After 12 years of a long-standing civil war, northern province was not given a huge priority for  such  cultural  developments  based  on  tourism  as  the  major  priorities  were  given  for resettlements  and  rehabilitation  of  affected  people.  Therefore,  most  of  the  artists  are currently  quite  from  the  professional  stages.  With  the  future  opportunities  in  Tourism brought up with Real North Initiative, these artists will have a great opportunity to excel their  talents  for  the  national  and  international  audiences”  said  Ms.  Harshi  Abeynayake, Value Chain Officer addressing the team of dancers in Kilinochchi.

She  further  explained  that  providing  proper  knowledge  on  the  professional  dancing opportunities available locally and internationally as well as developing capacities through skill development programme to address the time skills and activities based on the customer requirement are the key objectives of this programme.

Creating a definite income source for the dance and drama artists by bringing the Tamil cultural folk dancing style into the international level through improved capacity building is also expected.

“More importantly, preservation of dying arts and the artists while creating a skilful next generation   will   be   a   valuable   outcome   of   this   project”   explained   Ms.   Abeynayake addressing the dancers.

Mr. Manchanayake, founder of the Lakshman Manchanayake Dancing Academy started the session in Kilinochchi introducing dancing as a profession in the international context.

Scientific methods of choreography was taught by the trainers using different musical meditation exercises during the programme.

Team was given the opportunity to present different situations in life using the expressions of dances and drama.

Depicting a coffin, a funeral using the creative performing arts……..

A traditional wedding ceremony in North, using the art…..

“Active  participation  of  young  women  for  this  industry  will  be  a  good  sign  of  a  future growth”  expressed  by  Mr.  Kingsley,  Professional  trainer  of  Lakshman  Manchanayake Dancing  Academy  addressing  the  audience  in  Kilinochchi.  The  team  was  given  the opportunity to perform as a group at the second day of the audition.

The introductory session was able to increase the awareness on the professional dancing opportunities  for  the  rural  dancers  as  well  as  the  idea  of  generating  income  using  the opportunities available in the future tourism industry.

Delft Island, Jaffna Programme

Cultural dancers attending the opening session in Delft Island on 22nd  and 23rd  April 2021

Divisional  Secretariat  of  Delft  Island  welcomed  the  trainers  and  the  organising  team according to the Northern Tradition with a colourful Kumbham (a cultural welcome table comprised with lamp, flower, rice, banana, coconut and three holy dusts including saffron).

Delft Island has numerous dancing troupes practicing various dancing styles. Among those, Aalamavanam Kallai Kulumam Cultural Dancer’s Society was founded with the objective of  preserving  the  dying  performing  arts  named  as  “Nattu  Kuuththu”  for  the  future generations under the leadership of Divisional Secretariat of the Delft Island which is an isolated  island  in  the Indian  Oceans owned  by  the Northern  Province  of  Sri  Lanka. The island is currently sheltering for 1329 families.

Preservation  of  Tamil  Folk  Dancing  for  the  next  generation  with  the  participation  of traditional dancers in the Delft Island was addressed as a key matter during the focused group  discussions  related  to  tourism  value  chain.  Currently  the  society  operates  at  the village temple place and the artists perform an annual show at the open natural theatre set- up at the village. Similarly, the artists visit various locations in the country to participate for the shows.

Few of the oldest traditional dancers in the Delft Island attending for the lighting of the customary oil lamp…

With the improvement of tourism in Delft Island after the civil war, some potentials for the cultural dancers to perform live for the local and international tourists visiting the Island were  recognised  by  the  Divisional  Secretariet.  Before  the  pandemic,  the  Delft  Island attracted  a  significant  number  of  tourists  daily  specially  the  travellers  prefer  the  nature, culture, and the beach in the delft island. Although at present the international tourists are not visiting due to the pandemic, the domestic tourism season is about to begin with the lifted pandemic restrictions in the country.  The project would create benefits to the dancers scattered within the delft island including women. In addition to the above society, there are  number  of  other  micro  scale  cultural  troupes  formed  in  the  area  also  was  given opportunity to join the programme.

Mr.  Sathyasothi,  Divisional  Secretary  of  Delft  Island  explained  the  objective  of  the programme and eloborated the importance of such programme that can be benefitted with the future tourism opportunities in the Island.

Divisional Secretary explained that it is important to know about the available opportunities for the professional dancers in the national and international context.

At the preliminary feasibility analysis conducted by EFECS it was identified that the dancers are lacking with capacities in time management and composition of dancing items expected by the international and tourist audience. Similarly, the fear of performing in international stages and lack of knowledge on converting their skills into income generation source were mainly identified. The dancers do not have enough infrastructure facilities as well as the stages,  venues  and  instruments.  Although  they  could  create  dancing  acts,  due  to  the unavailability of funds to create costumes and jewelleries have become an issue. This was identified as one of the financial requirements through these cluster.

“EFECS      aims to support the development of   Micro,   Small and Medium-scale Entrepreneurs (MSMEs) in Tourism.    The emerging cultural dancing profession has been identified as one of the potential incomes generating activities to improve the local economy in a sustainable manner connecting with the tourism value chain in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Considering the emerging opportunities in Delft Island with   its   island   nature   to   promote tourism  as  well  as  the  existence  of traditional  dancers  it  was  selected  as one    pilot    area”    said    Ms.    Harshi Abeynayake,  welcoming  the  cultural dancers  in  Delft  Island  on  22nd   April 2021.    Mr.    K.    Hershanth,    Market Development    Officer,    EFECS    also joined to welcome the audience.

Mr.  Manchanayake  explained  that  the  dancing  was  developed  based  on  the  historic geographical relations which was empowered by inter-continent tours in the historic era. Later  the  dancing  became  a  media  of  exchanging  cultures  and  evolved  through  various recreational  activities  such  as  sports,  education.  The  influence  of  Indian  Culture  for  Sri Lankan main and minor traditions was a key fact for the evolvement of dance said, Mr. Manchanayake addressing the dancers.

He further elaborated that the changes in social, cultural, political, and economic contexts occurred after the industrial revolution created numerous changes for the traditional dance in  the  world.  Dance,  which  was  limited  only  for  a  selected  cluster  of  the  society  was expanded  to  the  overall  community  with  the  evolvement  of  human  needs  with  the introduction of television, radio, telephone, international transportation, and social media.

Since   there   were   huge   awareness   generated   on   international   dancing   styles   and performances  via  these  global  communication  channels,  the  traditional  dancing  sector started creating national as well as international dancing opportunities for the micro scale dancing troupes. With those opportunities, today there are thousands of tourists visiting Sri Lanka to experience these unique traditional dances.

Dancers,  getting  registered  for  the  programme  with  the  assistance  of  the  staff  of  the  Divisional

Secretariat and Ms. Karthika Somasundaram, Volunteer assisted to the organising team in Delft.

Auditions were conducted focussing on Kuththu style, Folk and other traditional dancing styles.

Young Cultural Dancer in Delft performing her talents at the Audition.

The  troupes  consisted  number  of  Singers  and  Instrument  Players  and  their  individual talents also identified at the audition.

“Upcoming four days programme would be able to understand how to develop marketable cultural dancing packages and also as an income generating activity. This programme will lead  you  to  understand  the  best  methods  of  managing  an  event,  stage  as  well  as  the costumes making and beauty culture” said Mr. Manchanayake, concluding the session.