Lifestyle

A tribute to the Dancing Queen

Pujanee Galappaththi

The prima ballerina of Sri Lanka, the founder of “Oosha Garten of Ballet” currently known as The Ballet School of Colombo, Kalasuri Oosha Saravanamuttu-Wijesinghe bid farewell to all of us and entered the gates of heaven at the age of 87 on 24 July.

Being one of the most celebrated ballerinas and ballet instructors in the country, Saravanamuttu was also praised for her choreography, piano, and violin skills. Her loss will be greatly suffered by the community of arts and culture in Sri Lanka.

The Oosha Garten of Ballet was instituted in 1964, and since its inception, the school helped nurture talented dancers. Saravanamuttu dedicated her life to the performing arts; adding beauty and poise to many lives.

The Sunday Morning Brunch spoke to a few of her friends, students, and colleagues who were keen to share their love and respect for this beautiful soul. Here’s what they said:

The Ballet School of Colombo Directors Romina Gyi and Tara Cooke: “Famously known as the Shirley Temple of Ceylon, Aunty Oosha excelled in many dance forms, yet ballet was the closest to her heart. Ever since the start of the Oosha Garten of Ballet more than 50 years ago, lessons at Aunty Oosha’s have played a significant role in many of our lives; the generations upon generations of lives she touched during her career is countless. We learned the importance of discipline, handwork, and perseverance amongst many other attributes.

Her legacy lives on through us at The Ballet School of Colombo as we are forever grateful for all that she taught us and strive to pass her passion and dedication to the future generations.”

Shanuki de Alwis

Student of Oosha Saravanamuttu Shanuki de Alwis: “Four generations of my family danced under Aunty Oosha’s tutelage, and not just the women. My parents met each other in her class as her students. Both my grandmothers danced for her, as did my uncles, aunts, and cousins. I was put into the Oosha Garten of Ballet at the age of three. We’d quiver in our ballet shoes whenever she’d walk into the class. But it was she who moulded me into the dancer I became on stage for many years and gave me the tools to become a choreographer for musical theatre too. What a magnificent, formidable, and unquestionably legendary teacher she was!”

Vrai Raymond

Grandniece Vrai Raymond: “Oosha Maami, as we called her, was to me, like a “portrait of royalty” to be admired. She would just bring this electrifying energy with her every time she entered a room, and I was in awe of her beauty, her poise, and her elegance. My fondest memory of her is actually a very recent one – just over Christmas last year, at the Sara’s Christmas party, I had tears in my eyes watching her humming along, tapping her foot, and bobbing her head to the carolling; music was very much part of her soul.

Koluu

I’m proud to say my family was, and is, blessed with many of them, and as we bid goodbye to one of the last of them in her generation, all I can pray is that she rest in peace and rise up in glory to dance, dance, dance in the skies!”

Student of Oosha Saravanamuttu Koluu: “Known fondly to us as Aunty Oosha from our childhood, her home was always open to us at any time. Fond memories of being taken to carnivals, parties, and other shows are what I have of her. We were all in awe of Aunty Oosha since she always looked glamorous and dressed to perfection. Her annual ballet productions were always something to look forward to, so that we could help her in anyway. She was certainly an icon of Sri Lanka and will be missed. May she rest in peace.”

Mahika Chandrasena

Student of Oosha Saravanamuttu Mahika Chandrasena: “Oosha Garten of Ballet not only taught us rhythm but also taught us poise, balance, confidence, creativity, and being happy because of doing what you love. Aunty, you gave us a stylised grace of elegance when we took to the stage, when we strutted across the stage with our heads held high, and yes posture was essential to look the best. Your unique way of teaching was indeed descriptive and experiential. Your spirit had a passionate and inspirational dream to live; I loved every moment of it. I will never ever forget you and I thank you for making me love dance. We love you, Aunty. You will always be the epitome of a legend.” May you rest in peace!”

Student of Oosha Saravanamuttu Sureka Gunawardena: “Aunty Oosha was an extremely gracious lady, an outstanding teacher, choreographer, a role model, and an inspiration that shaped the foundation in my 27-plus years of dance training under her guidance. Aunty Oosha not only taught us how to dance but also instilled in us the importance of discipline, attention to detail, and taught us that hard work, dedication, and sacrifices will ultimately result in amazing creativity and noteworthy dancers in us. She was the teacher who believed in you. Aunty Oosha, you are a gift from God and I am eternally grateful to you for shaping my life that has to lead me to be where I am today. Your imprint lives in my heart forever. May you rest in eternal peace.”