Nyu Abu Dhabi in Collaboration with Nrityagram Dance Ensemble and Chitrasena Dance Company
The Art Center of the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) will host its first ever show with a Sri Lankan based group – the famed Chitrasena Dance Company in collaboration with Indian dance ensemble ‘Nrityagram’ for its online performance ‘Ahuti’.
The Arts Center at NYUAD, a complex of theatres and performance venues, fosters a dynamic relationship between the arts and the community and presents distinguished professional artistes from around the world alongside its student, faculty and community productions. NYUAD has continuously hosted productions and performances featuring global artistes at its platforms, and steps into its sixth season by moving online for a fully digital season in view of the global pandemic. This season will host a combination of real time and pre-recorded material with programmes presented nearly every week, hosted on an online platform that can be viewed by anyone across the world.
In their upcoming performance ‘Ahuti’ India’s Odissi dance meets Sri Lankan Kandyan dance as Nrityagram Dance Ensemble collaborates with the Chitrasena Dance Company. Celebrating 78 years in the industry, the Chitrasena Dance Company would be the first Sri Lankan group to be featured at NYUAD and the catalyst for many more collaborations in the future.
“Sri Lanka is a country near and dear to the hearts of many non-Sri Lankans in the UAE who have travelled there, and fallen in love with its rich and diverse culture. We originally heard of the project through their collaborators at Nrityagram Dance, and were also interested in opening more conversations about cross-cultural collaborations in a regional context. The extended collaboration between Chitrasena and Nrityagram, drawing from traditional and classical forms, and re-framing them into contemporary visions, really spoke to our vision as well” shares Bill Bragin, Executive Artistic Director of The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi.
“Working with Surupadi [from the Nrityagram Dance Company] and her vision is so much more than what meets the eye. It is a learning experience you can never get enough of - whether you are a dancer or a musician - to be present in every moment, engaging, contributing, while watching her breathe life into the creative process. It is truly an offering every day.” Heshma
The performance by these two world renowned dance companies presents a fusion of classical and cultural dance as they collaborate to create a contemporary union of classical Odissi dance from India and traditional Kandyan dance from Sri Lanka to engage in a conversation between the distinct dance traditions and movement vocabularies of each country. This pre-recorded performance was filmed back in September 2019 at Bangalore, India.
“I feel in one sense, Ahuti became that maha or great offering, through “Poornāratī” where 2 dance companies became one, to perform a ritual” shares Heshma Wignaraja. Heshma, the eldest granddaughter of Chitrasena and Vajira, is the Assistant Director for the Kandyan Dance in Ahuti and current Artistic Director of Chitrasena Dance Company. “Working with Surupadi [from the Nrityagram Dance Company] and her vision is so much more than what meets the eye. It is a learning experience you can never get enough of - whether you are a dancer or a musician - to be present in every moment, engaging, contributing, while watching her breathe life into the creative process. It is truly an offering every day.”
Under the artistic direction of Surupa Sen, the Artistic Director of Nrityagram Dance Ensemble and the choreographer of Ahuti, the fluid and precise Nrityagram’s Odissi dance is performed to a group of five musicians playing ragas. On the other hand, Chitrasena’s Kandyan form leans towards the muscular, vertical, and athletic. Both incorporate percussion in their music and are rooted in ancient religious rituals. The piece is a reciprocation of differing styles, shifting from one to the other.
“The different movement styles of our dances clearly reflect a shared and uniting history. As a choreographer, I found a spontaneous and instinctive response in Heshma and we began to understand our respective instincts for our dance work and inspire each other accordingly.
We are already thinking of our next show together and widening it, to absorb more dance forms from Asia” comments Surupa Sen.
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