Sri Lanka’s State Dance Ensemble performs in Washington DC

The beat of the drum was irresistible, the cadence exquisite, almost hypnotic. The fluid movements of traditional dance mesmerized the audience.

This was the hallmark of the performances of Sri Lanka’s State Dance Ensemble in Washington DC, as they launched their U.S. tour by performing in the country’s capital in honor of Sri Lanka’s 60th Anniversary of Independence. Prior to their performance at Sri Lanka’s 60th Anniversary of Independence celebrations, the Ensemble presented an awe-inspiring performance at the Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and a public show in Maryland, all of which drew wide applause and appreciation from the audience. The show at the Kennedy Center drew massive crowds who were awe-struck by the magnificence of the performance.

The State Dance Ensemble comprises thirty members, fourteen of who are in Washington DC, led by Artistic Director and Choreographer, Ravibandhu Vidyapathy, who hails from a renowned family of traditional performing and visual artists.

As Ravibandhu says, he took up the challenge of adapting traditional dancing to suit the modern stage, contemporary lighting set up and the concept of modern costumes, while keeping the traditional motifs intact, enhancing the exotic aura of the mystic East.

With traditional Sri Lankan dancing not having music tradition, the drums play a critical role in moving the dance along. The professional finesse of the State Dance Ensemble drummers clearly thrilled the untutored audiences in Washington DC, as the repetitive rhythm rose and fell in unfailing accuracy, leading to a thunderous climax, then to fade away in soft drum beat.

The dancers led their way onto the stage, heralded by Perahera and Magul Bera, which gave way to the elaborate and masculine form of the Kanyan Dance with colorful masks. The Naga Gurulu mask dance which depicted the rivalry between the cobra and the eagle was accompanied by ominous drum beats, which then turned sensuous to fit the slow movement of the peacock in the Mayura Vannama. The Getabera, a drum dance manifesting the intricacies of traditional rhythms and the Samooha Bera, a spectacular orchestration of different types of traditional Sri Lankan drums, nearly drove the audiences wild. The ‘Thelme’, a highly acrobatic dance in the low country style, complete with exotic, colorful costume, added a fascinating dash of ritual to the performance.

The male dancers included Ravibandhu Vidyapathy, Upul Bandara, Matotage Hemachandra, Chaminda Mahawatta, Nilantha Karunarathne and Manoj Shivantha. The female dancers comprised Tanuja Dilhani, Dulani Vajiramala, Harini Peiris, Sujani Malithi and Nayana Kumudini. The Master Drummers included Prasanna Rupathilaka, Udayapriya Kumara and Saman Kumara. The troupe Manager was Lakshman Perera, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Cultural Affairs. The Dance Ensemble’s visit to the U.S. was made possible by the generosity of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, which spent a significant portion of its budget on the visit. Following the performances in Washington DC, the Ensemble will perform in Minnesota, and proceed to Canada, where they are due to perform in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Montreal.

The State Dance Ensemble did indeed do their country proud, displaying Sri Lanka’s magnificent cultural heritage with professional finesse and exquisite style.

Click here for the Performance Video

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

03 February 2008


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