Giving young ballerinas a platform to shine

  • The Ballet School of Colombo hosts their inaugural prize giving

The Ballet School of Colombo held its inaugural exams this August in the fields of classical and jazz ballet in affiliation with the Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing (CSTD), marking the first time in Sri Lanka that a school or establishment has been affiliated with the CSTD. 

They recently held the inauguration ceremony for the exams, where young students were awarded their certificates and graduated from their respective programmes. 

Hannah Maria Farook

The Morning Brunch spoke to some of the students for an inside perspective on the dance school. Hannah Maria Farook shared that attending the school has been her entire life and a dream come true. “Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to learn ballet, and our teachers are wonderful and very kind,” she said. She described her learning experience to be hard, but rewarding. “It helps me be myself!” 

We also spoke to the youngest girl at the dance school, who was awarded an honours in baby ballet. Five-year-old Shanaya Samarasinghe told us that her classes are so much fun and that she loves learning ballet. Adding to this, her mother shared that it’s her first time attending a prize giving, so she was excited and thanked The Ballet School of Colombo for the opportunity. “Shanaya had a very good experience with them and I was surprised to see her change; she wasn’t scared of the exam, so the school did a very good job especially with online classes. There was a lot of effort from their side as well,” she added. 

Mithara Muthukumarana and her younger sister Neheli shared that their classes were also entertaining. “We have always loved watching ballet videos so we joined the class and we love it!” When asking the little one if she found her classes to be difficult, she vehemently shook her head no and emphasised that they have lots of fun learning how to dance. 

Mithara and Sheneli Muthukumarana

Seeing the kids all dressed up, faces shining with glee upon receiving their awards is truly a testimonial to the good work that The Ballet School of Colombo has done over the years.

What is the CSTD? 

Speaking to The Ballet School of Colombo Directors Tara Cooke and Romina Gyi on what the CSTD brings to their school, they explained that the CSTD occupies a unique position amongst the dance societies of the world, catering for all major forms of dance. With its origins dating back to 1933 with the formation of the National Examination System and the Victorian Society of Dancing Australia, the CSTD is an authoritative examining body whose high standards are internationally respected. 

Cooke also spoke with The Morning Brunch about how this milestone has become a way for The Ballet School of Colombol to make history in a good way amidst the pandemic. “We had our first set of exams on 7 August,” Cooke said. “We’ve been teaching online since the beginning of the year and we had 36 students who sat for the exams. They became the first batch of students to be qualified in the CSTD syllabus in Sri Lanka and we feel that this is a very significant moment for us to celebrate in terms of our country, as The Ballet School of Colombo is the first school in Sri Lanka to be affiliated with the CTSD.”

Cooke also shared that qualifications that students receive from the CSTD will help students with their applications to universities, both locally and internationally.

The future of ballet in Sri Lanka 

Shanaya Samarasinghe

The Ballet School of Colombo previously known as the Oosha Garten of Ballet is the oldest Western ballet institute in the island and has seen thousands of enthusiastic dancers walk through its doors for the past 60 over years and counting. In conversation with Cooke and Gyi on the progressive of ballet in Sri Lanka over the last 50+ years, they shared that back in the day, students didn’t have such a hectic academic life as they do now and were able to come for ballet and dance lessons a lot more frequently. Since the only way to improve in dance is constant practice, it’s a challenge they face now when teaching students who can’t make it for lessons as regularly as they should. Also there was a lot more participation from both genders in class, whereas now the majority of the children that enroll are girls. “We want to change the perspective that ballet is only for girls. Back in the day we had a lot more boys joining in as they saw it more about personal improvement as well rather than just a dance form. Research has now listed ballet/dance as the No. 1 physically challenging profession. With this it’s understood that ballet builds strength, better coordination, flexibility and also assists in improving confidence, creativity and discipline. All of which are crucial attributes for anyone,” stated Cooke and Gyi.