It's Me, Me, Me

Suba will be spending the next seven weeks in Sri Lanka as part of the Sura Medura Residency programme; where 8 invited artists will make new work, collaborate and be inspired by the beauty, culture, country and people of Sri Lanka. Here's her first blog and initial impressions.

I arrived in Sri Lanka knowing that very little was going to prepare me for the pain of a nearly seven week separation from my boys – my husband and particularly my son Hal. The getting ready to go was harder than the leaving itself. I arrived four days earlier than all the other artists. It felt as though this time was somehow self indulgent. I was not being a mother, a wife, a teacher or even a choreographer for a few days. Hence the “me, me, me” title. Sunbeach Hotel and Hikkaduwa needed to become my home for six and a half weeks. So in those four days I made Hikkaduwa my beautiful bubble within which I was going to create, collaborate and coexist with 7 other artists none of whom I have met before.

Neil, Mari and their son Jack have already made me feel so welcome.

I savoured the tranquility of being by myself. I went to Galle by train, watched some stilt fishing in Unawatuna, had an Ayurvedic massage, walked around Hikkaduwa and discovered the town. I also discovered Lyndon’s yoga classes which are super, mega hard but it gives me a focus for my own practice at least three times a week. I spoke to lots of the other guests at the hotel. I went for long walks on the beach. I met, or at least saw, the giant turtles that swim up to the shore just a short walk long the beach. Wherever I went I was asked if I was Sri Lankan purely because of the colour of my skin. Every time, I patiently explained that I was born in Malaysia but lived in the UK. I became increasingly aware that I was not saying I was Tamil. Was that subconscious or was it that I preferred being a tourist rather than a Tamil person? I’m not sure.

Week 1…The createful 8….

Meeting all the other artists (Brian Hartley, Rob Mullholland, Emma Brierly, Tanuja Amarasuriya and Timothy X Atack aka Sleepdogs and Claire Raftery and Damian Wright aka Periplum) has been really wonderful. Each of them seem to bring with them an openness to explore and exchange. Listening to each of them talk about their practices gave me so much to think about. I feel very humbled to be amongst such a diverse, highly skilled and talented bunch of artists. So much to learn, to experience and so much fun to be had!

Brian and I have already decided that we are going to do some form of sharing of our own dance practices as a daily routine...or at least as often as we can. He is interested in learning Bharata Natyam – the ancient South Indian classical dance form - and I am keen to understand contact improvisation but without going to a big class with a whole bunch of dancers! We have been working in a wonderful space with a roof but no walls in the jungle where all the villages are. The space belongs to Mangalika, a wonderful, warm woman who makes us welcome every time. Her three year old grand daughter Samadi always comes to play with us for the first few minutes of our sessions. It has become our little ritual. That space is our haven. It makes my Hikkaduwa bubble that little bit bigger and busier. I love working there. We are often interrupted by the sounds of weird and wonderful birds and Mangalika bringing us tea or coconuts.

Ideas are slowly creeping in about what I’d like to do, create and explore whilst here. The daily dance practice, yoga and conversations are feeding this process very nicely. As are the tea and coconuts.

I am missing my little boy terribly. I have to work really hard at compartmentalising my brain. Every time I speak to him on the phone albeit through the most frustrating internet signal, those compartments fall apart and I yearn to hug and hold him. I allow myself that time to be sad and then carry on. I have been given a wonderful opportunity to be here, explore my own practice in an unpressured, hotel on a beach environment with a bunch of amazing artists. I have laughed a lot, cried a lot, thought a lot, talked a lot, eaten a lot, danced a lot, done yoga a lot, been in the sea a lot and long may it continue into coming weeks.