But first she danced. It's the same piece as she did in Yangon
, with the Tamil lullaby - but this time, she also had some of the original video art to accompany her.
That's just a snippet in the YouTube, by the way. Great way to begin. It was later that Venuri launched into her autobiography; how she's just turned 30, and how she spent her 20s avoiding dance.
Venuri: I kind of looked down on being a dancer and dance. Because traditional dance, Kandyan dance was about beauty, perfection of technique. And when you dance more beautifully, people tell you, you become more egoistic. And I didn’t want that to happen to me. And I remember my guru in his 70s becoming very bitter because all of us didn’t know how great he was.
She decided to study psychology to be useful - the civil war had just ended, and she knew loads of mental care was needed.
Venuri: Did any of you see Tellervo’s film last night? Well, the state of mental illness in Sri Lanka is 10 times worse.
After five years of psych, she let herself do one year of a Dance and Community MA in London. And this was where she learned all the language of modern and contemporary dance for the first time: movement analysis, cerebral connection with body, connection of space and time, principles of dynamics, efficiency of movement, how to use a motif.
Venuri: You think dancers and artists are creative people, but for most of my life I felt I wasn’t creative, because as a traditional dancer you’re asked to perfect these steps.
She was in fact surprised when the theme of war crept into her early self-devised work - in Colombo, she says she's lived in a bubble, isolated from the violence. By her standards, anyway. She talks about the occasional bomb going off rather matter-of-factly.
Venuri: The question of why I dance: I’m still not sure, but through this, I’m trying to create a sense of empathy from this other community we were in a sense alienated from. And that these personal stories we could actually relate to: despair, the loss of a child, the loss of dignity.
As soon as she gets back, she's going into rehearsals with a German choreographer and ex-soldiers - some of who've come out of the war with disabilities. Seems that when the choreographer touched down in Colombo, she asked, "Where are the disabled people?" And of course, they're hidden away, sometimes outright denied by their families - both the mentally and physically ill.
Venuri seemed sheepish about this concept - choreography for the disabled is old hat in many countries. But in Sri Lanka, it does seem to be taking a different form. Here, one dancer (who's just unfastened his prosthetic leg) is moulding another man from a Buddhist mudhra pose to a warrior pose:
Important work, even in Singapore still - changing the aesthetic of beauty, the notions of dance as beautiful, what kind of movement different bodies can do.