Ves Dance – Kohomba Kankariya
Ves dance, originated from ancient purification ritual known as Kohomba Kankariya was only performed by males. According to the legend, the second king of Lanka, Panduvasdev was suffering from a mysterious illness where he saw recurring dreams of leopard directing his tongue towards the king. After the performance of Ves Dance, his illness vanished and many locals adopted the dance to cure mentally disturbed within the premise of certain temples. The dancers were identified as a separate caste under Kandyan feudal system and they were aligned to the Temple of the Tooth. The dance and the art slowly faded when the kings lost their power during the British rule. Later while promoting the tourism and Lankan culture, this ancient form of dance art was revived.
The costume of the male dancer has 64 ornaments and is considered to be a replica of that worn by the Kohomba God. An important part of the costume of a Ves dancer is the headgear which shines with several silver spokes. A long ribbon trails from the top knot of the headgear. The upper half the dancer’s body is covered with ornaments and lower half is draped with pleated white cloth. The costume of the dancer is so sacred that it is not allowed to be kept at home.
The brass anklets tied to the foot of the dancer brings out rhythmic jingles when the dancer firmly strikes his foot on the floor to match the movements along with the drum beats. The dances today are based on stories from mythical legends, nature, history or religious tales. The dancer firmly moves accentuating his body and swaying to the beats combined with graceful hand gestures. There are few bits in the performance where the dancer does spectacular back flips, acrobats and high kicking leaps and whirling pirouettes. Drum beating is the soul of Kandyan dance performances. The drummer vigorously flanked and produced tribal rhythmic beats as the dancer gracefully matched his moves thereby connecting the audiences to their tribal roots.
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