An inspired cultural collaboration flourishes onstage through movement and live music when renowned Indian dance company Nrityagram Dance Ensemble is joined by Sri Lankan Chitrasena Dance Company for an enchanting performance featuring Odissi classical dance and traditional Kandyan dance. 

With elegant and poetic dances in rhythm, lyrical interludes, physical expression, vibrant colors, and music, “Āhuti” comes to the Moss Arts Center on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 7:30 p.m. The performance will be held in the center’s Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall.

The second cross-cultural production from these two acclaimed companies, “Āhuti” pushes the boundaries of creative dialogue, engaging in a conversation between the distinct dance traditions and movement vocabularies of each country. Live music is essential to the work, with skilled percussion, flute, and harmonium performers driving the rhythms of the dance and accentuating its lyricism. Nrityagram considers live music intrinsic to its practice.

Originally a sacred ritual dedicated to the gods, Odissi is one of the oldest dance traditions in the world. Its sinuous forms, languorous limbs, and rapt expressions tell of a past rich in dance, music, myth, and legend. Odissi speaks of love and union between human and divine, transporting viewers to enchanted worlds of magic and spirituality.

The robust Kandyan dance comes from Kandy, an area in the Central hills region in Sri Lanka. According to legend, the origins of the dance lie in an exorcism ritual known as the Kohomba Kankariya, which was performed by shamans from India who came to the island on the request of a king suffering from a mysterious illness. After the performance of the ritual, the illness vanished and the local people adopted the dance, which was then adapted for the stage in the 1940s by Guru Chitrasena.

Nrityagram Dance Ensemble

One of the premier Indian dance ensembles performing today, the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble has the unprecedented distinction of making The New York Times’ “Best Dance of the Year” list two consecutive years in a row (2015 and 2016). The all-female ensemble’s daily life of intensive training and meditation brings to the stage compelling captivating performances that are at once sensual and lyrical.

Located outside Bangalore, India, the Nrityagram dance village was founded in 1990 by Odissi dancer Protima Gauri, who converted farmland into a setting for the study, practice, and teaching of dance. This is a creative space where dancers, musicians, and choreographers live together, sharing their skills and developing their art.

Surupa Sen, artistic director, choreographer, and founding member of Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, has worked for over two decades to research and expand the dance vocabulary of Odissi and developed its aesthetic style. Sen has choreographed seven full-length ensemble shows, two full-length duet shows, and two full-length solo shows for Nrityagram. In 2019 Sen was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the highest award for the performing arts in India.

Chitrasena Dance Company

Sri Lanka's oldest dance company, Chitrasena Dance Company was established in the 1940s by Guru Chitrasena, who was instrumental in bringing Sri Lanka's traditional dances from the village rituals to the modern stage. Today, the dance school and company continue to use traditional dance to create contemporary dance theatre, innovating the ancient and robust Kandyan dance style practiced on the island. The popularity Chitrasena built for Kandyan dance helped reduce the caste barriers surrounding the dance and made it accessible to contemporary audiences.

For over seven decades Chitrasena Dance Company has given life to compelling performances, ranging from a rich repertoire of dance and drumming pieces to acclaimed original ballets and productions inspired by ancient rituals and contemporary culture.

This engagement of “Āhuti” is made possible through the ArtsCONNECT program of Mid Atlantic Arts with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Related events

Join performers from Nrityagram Dance Ensemble and Chitrasena Dance Company for an open conversation moderated by Margaret Lawrence, Moss Arts Center director of programming, immediately following the performance.

A free matinee performance for public, private, and homeschool students from Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Floyd, and surrounding areas takes the audience on a journey through time and space to Eastern India, introducing them to the language of Odissi and Kandyan dance — from body positions and movement vocabulary to nuances such as walks, spins, and jumps. This school-day performance includes excerpts from “Āhuti,” a brief lecture/demonstration, a dance presentation, and a question-and-answer session.

During their visit to Blacksburg, members of the dance ensembles will participate in a multiple activities with Virginia Tech students, including an introductory workshop in Odissi dance, a social with the Sri Lankan Student Association, and visits to dance, costume design, and women’s and gender studies classes. Members of Chitrasena Dance Company will visit Springhouse Day School in Floyd to lead a private workshop in Kandyan dance.

Ticket information

Tickets for the performance are $25-$55 for general public and $10 for students and youth 18 and under. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300 during box office hours.

Paid parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Virginia Tech faculty and staff possessing a valid Virginia Tech parking permit can enter and exit the garage free of charge. Virginia Tech has also partnered with ParkMobile to provide a convenient, contactless electronic payment option for parking, which may be used at any parking meter, campus parking space, or lot with standard F/S, C/G, or R parking.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Jamie Wiggert at least 10 days prior to the event at 540-231-5300 or email during regular business hours.

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