- Artistic director Rangika Jeewantha on representing the nation in Qatar
By Venessa Anthony
Representing Sri Lanka at the FIFA World Cup this year is Sri Lanka’s very own dance troupe Rivega. The team received this opportunity when the Doha-Qatar co-ordinating community called for proposals from Sri Lanka to perform at the World Cup. The proposal was required to contain details about the dance, such as the costumes and music, which were then to be reviewed by a supreme committee. Upon seeing this, troupe leader Rangika Jeewantha immediately applied, and lo and behold, the Rivega Dance Group was chosen to highlight the nation on the world stage.
“This wasn’t a small feat – many dancers and singers from Sri Lanka applied, so it wasn’t easy to be picked, but when the judges saw our peacock dance, they told us they were awed and picked us because of how unique it was,” he said.
The troupe began their first World Cup performance on 26 November and will continue until 2 December. Initially, Rangika told us, they weren’t supposed to perform for so long, nor had they been scheduled so many sessions, but because the crowd was highly impressed and receptive to their peacock dance, the World Cup committee decided on extending their stay and adding more dates.
“We’ve hardly had time to rest or breathe; it’s one performance after another,” he told us, revealing that sometimes they perform up to seven times a day!
Despite their exhausting schedule, Rangika highly commended the organisational skills of the Sri Lankan Embassy and the team at FIFA.
“We lack nothing – from transport to our apartments and food, they take so much care to ensure that they are perfect. They even asked us if we have any dietary restrictions and gave us options for meals. If we need the gym, it’s available 24 hours. Our practice studio is perfect and tailored to our needs,” he said, adding that he was blown away by how precise and detailed everything was. “We are very grateful for their generous hospitality and have to add that performing nonstop in other conditions would’ve been quite challenging,” he stated.
On the topic of challenges, we asked him if they had faced any with their performances so far, to which he replied: “The weather! It’s crazy weather here – if we perform pre-game, it’s really, really hot, and since we perform vigorous dances barefoot as well, it really takes a toll on us. And post-game, it’s so cold, almost freezing, as our costumes don’t offer much warmth, and it’s so windy too – several times our headgear and other parts of the costume have flown off due to the strong winds,” he detailed, noting that this stark contrast in weather was wearing them down a lot faster.
On that note, Rangika revealed that they had been requested to perform at the closing ceremony of the FIFA World Cup, along with two other dance troupes – but he told us he is yet to agree, given the massive health toll the last few days have taken on the dancers.
“As much of an honour it will be, I must put my dancers’ health first. There is no point performing if they will barely be able to stand afterwards. My dancers are my priority and they will always come first,” he affirmed.
All in all, Rangika is grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and believes that the troupe has convinced many to visit Sri Lanka, and promote our rich culture and heritage.
“We even had the chance to interact with a few international troupes, and they too commended our performances – we hope we were good enough to attract more tourists to our motherland,” he added. So far, the team has been all over the news, both local and international, and whether or not they choose to close the World Cup, they will be welcomed back with honour.