One of the premiere Indian Classical dance ensembles performing today, Nrityagram has the unprecedented distinction of making The New York Times’ “Best Dance of the Year” list two consecutive years in a row (2015, 2016). More than a dance company, Nrityagram was founded as a village devoted to Odissi dance. The all-female ensemble’s daily life of intensive training and meditation brings to the stage compelling performances that are at once sensual and lyrical. In 2018-19, the company returns to the US with special guest artists from Sri Lanka’s Chitrasena Dance Company for a tour of their critically-acclaimed collaborative work, Saṃhāra.

 “One of the most extraordinary dance events of the year…The only proper response to dancers this amazing is worship.”
- The New York Times

“These are among the world’s greatest dancers!”
- The New York Times

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Now Touring

Dates Available for Touring
Summer – Fall 2018

Touring Personnel
Performers: 7 dancers and 5 musicians
Production Staff: 1
Administrative Staff: 1

Repertory Available 2018/19
Featuring special guest artists from Chitrasena Dance Company
Performed with live music
India’s most celebrated Odissi dance troupe returns to the US with Saṃhāra, a work that has not been seen in the US since its premiere in 2012. Accompanied by the beguiling dancers of Sri Lanka’s Chitrasena Dance Company, the collaborative performance features an impressive ensemble of 12 international dancers and musicians. A rare opportunity to experience the timeless brilliance of two ancient dance forms, from the sensuous grace of Odissi to the ethereal dynamism of Kandyan dance. Saṃhāra has garnered international acclaim, with The New York Times proclaiming the workexciting and illuminating.” Set to a live original score composed by Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi, with rhythm composition by Dhaneswar Swain (India) and Presanna Singakkara (Sri Lanka), Saṃhāra toured to great critical acclaim in India, Sri Lanka, USA, Mexico and Singapore. After a four year hiatus Saṃhāra returned to the stage, performing to sold out audiences in Spring and Summer 2017 in Bangalore, The Royal Festival Hall, London and the city of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Outreach and Engagement

Classes, Workshops and Lecture-Demonstrations are presented with live musical accompaniment by Nrityagram’s Music Ensemble.

Introduction to Odissi Dance Class
Length of Class: 90 minutes – 2 hours
An opportunity to learn basic phrases of abstract movement and the isolated body-training specific to Odissi, as evolved and practiced at Nrityagram. The company begins with a brief Lecture that traces Odissi dance from its origin till Odissi as it is practiced today, specifically at Nrityagram. This is followed by a demonstration of the language of Odissi – Body positions and basic movement technique deconstructed; Language of Expressional Dance with hand gestures and facial expressions. (This could be participatory, especially for young audiences). To end the demonstration, the technique and language of Odissi dance is brought to life through performance of a dance piece. Participants are then taught Isolated body training techniques used at Nrityagram, including information from Abhinaya Darpana and Natya Shastra, which are ancient texts of dance & theatre. The class ends with the teaching of basic phrases that provide a brief but complete experience of the Odissi dance vocabulary.

2 day Odissi Workshop
Length of Class: 90 minutes – 2 hours each day
An extended 2 day workshop is also offered where participants experience more in-depth instruction and create a short paragraph of abstract dance based on the phrases that they have learned.

Kandyan Dance Class
Length of Class: 90 minutes 
This class will give participants the opportunity to learn about an indigenous traditional dance form from Sri Lanka. Its origins date back to over 2500 years, however it is only with the emergence of Chitrasena in the early 30′s and 40′s, that this ancient ritual art form was given a new life through its stage adaptation for contemporary audiences. The class will begin with a brief introduction to the history of the Kandyan dance, how the Chitrasena dance style in particular has developed over the past 5 decades and is being practiced today. The class is designed to experience the abstract Kandyan dance vocabulary in a deconstructed manner; like learning a written language, participants will learn some of the alphabets, a basic word construct or two, a sentence structure and some dynamic elements like jumps and turns, resulting in finally learning a longer sentence structure.

Lecture Demonstration (75 minutes + 15 minute Q&A)
Based on Odissi Dance from India and Kandyan Dance from Sri Lanka, The Lecture-Demonstration is an Introduction to Odissi Dance as evolved and practiced at Nrityagram & Kandyan Dance as developed and practiced by the Chitrasena Dance School. The presentation will begin with a brief lecture on the unique history and evolution of both dance forms and a demonstration of the unique technical features of both. This is to establish the cultural commonality and differences that influence both dance traditions and how they can come together in one performance space. These technical differences are demonstrated separately through music, rhythms, basic body positions, basic movement vocabulary and nuances such as walks, spins and jumps. This is followed by a demonstration of hand gestures, facial expressions and stylized body language – techniques unique to Odissi, which are used to tell stories. (This could be participatory, especially for young audiences). Finally the technique and language of Odissi and Kandyan dance is brought to life through presentation of short dance sequences in each forms and a collaborative section from Saṃhāra. The event culminates in a Q&A session with the company.

SCHOOLTIME MATINEE: Dance Village Odyssey
(50 minutes/includes Q&A session)
In this one-of-a-kind cultural exchange, The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble transports students on a magical journey through time and space to Eastern India, the birthplace of Odissi (one of the world’s oldest classical dance forms) and to the island of Sri Lanka, home to Kandyan dance (an ancient folk dance ritual). Geared for young audiences, company members illustrate the breathtaking beauty of both dance forms, demonstrating how each reflects the culture of their homeland and thus the differences that set each apart. Accompanied by Nrityagram’s live music ensemble and a Kandyan drummer, this engaging show includes audience participation and will introduce students to the language of Odissi and Kandyan dance, from body positions and movement vocabulary to nuances such as walks, spins and jumps. The company will also perform excerpts from Saṃhāra will be performed.  Study Guide Available.
Student Audience Grade Range: Grade 4 (ages 9-10 yrs old) – High School (ages 14-18)

Panel Discussions and Artist Talks Topics include but are not limited classical Indian dance, Saṃhāra – a meeting of two cultures, Odissi and sculpture, the poetry of the Geeta Govinda, The Natyashastra, story telling through dance, spirituality, Body conditioning and injury prevention, gender studies, religious studies, Temple architecture and dance, Nrityagram Dance Village.

Post performance discussions available upon request. No Pre-Performance Discussions / Talks.

Artist's Calendar

Venue / Time
Chowdiah Memorial Hall
Bangalore, India
Chowdiah Memorial Hall
Bangalore, India
The Science Museum
South Kensington, London
The Science Museum
South Kensington, London
Newman Center for the Performing Arts, University of Denver
Denver, CO
The Flato Markham Theatre
Markham, ON, Canada
Jim Wise Theatre, Rutgers Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience
Rutgers, NJ
Weill Hall, The Green Music Center @ Sonoma State University
Sonoma, CA



Originally a sacred ritual dedicated to the gods, Odissi is one of the oldest dance traditions in the world dating back to 200 BCE. Odissi, also known as Orissi is a major ancient classical dance that originated in the Hindu temples of Odisha – an eastern coastal state of India. Odissi, in its history, was performed predominantly by women and expressed religious stories and spiritual ideas, particularly of Vaishnavism (Vishnu as Jagannath), but also of other traditions such as those related to Hindu gods Shiva and Krishna, as well as Hindu goddesses (Shaktism). Its’ sinuous forms, languorous limbs and rapt expressions frozen in stone 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 temple sculptures as well as the poetry from the deep wellsprings of Oriya music.

Kandyan Dance
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. Originally performed by dancers who were identified as a separate caste and aligned to the Temple of the Tooth, the dance declined when support from the Kandyan kings ended in the colonial period. Kandyan Dance was adapted for the stage in the 1940s, by Chitrasena. His wife and dance partner Vajira Chitrasena was the first professional female Kandyan dancer, and together they established Kandyan dance as a performance art. Their popularity helped to reduce the caste barriers surrounding the dance and made it accessible to an urban, contemporary audience.


Nrityagram Dance Village
Nrityagram is India’s first modern Gurukul, dedicated to creating excellence through the traditional method of learning, the Guru-Shishya Parampara, referred to as mentorship in modern times. In a serendipitous moment, Protima Gauri was first introduced to the classical arts in her late twenties. She walking into the wrong theatre and was immediately captivated by Odissi dance, which forever changed her life. This moment inspired her to envision a place that would allow the same life-changing opportunity to others. Inaugurated in 1990, the Nrityagram dance village is located outside Bangalore, India built on ten acres of farmland, which were converted into a setting for the study, practice and teaching of dance.

The School at Nrityagram
At Nrityagram, dance is a way of life, where dancers from all over the world live in an atmosphere that nurtures artistic exploration and development. With over 200 students, Nrityagram fosters the artistic, intellectual and personal growth of the dancers and prepares them for successful and productive lives as artists and citizens, as well as to become leaders in their professions. The aim is to prepare dancers for careers that combine performance with teaching, community outreach, and leadership. To enrich their practice, dancers are taught yoga, meditation, and martial arts along with Sanskrit and ancient dance scriptures. The training system includes a unique, scientific body-conditioning programme that is sourced from Yoga, Natyashastra, Kalaripayattu, Western fitness methods and Odissi exercises. This training method is designed to increase the performance lifespan of a dancer and is much sought-after by accomplished dance and movement professionals from different disciplines. Choreographers, musicians, writers, and theatre practitioners from all over the world visit, to perform and conduct workshops and seminars in their area of practice. This blend of traditional knowledge with contemporary understanding and application is Nrityagram’s hallmark and strengthens its position as a ground-breaking institution.

The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble
Internationally regarded as one of the foremost dance companies of India that has nurtured such celebrated dancers as Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy, the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble performs all over India, tours the US annually, and regularly presents work in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. Although dedicated to ancient practice, the ensemble is also committed to carrying Indian dance into the twenty-first century by exploring creative interpretations of tradition.

Surupa Sen, Artistic Director Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, Choreographer
Ms. Sen began her Odissi dance training with the architect of Odissi, Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra. She also studied Odissi with Guru Protima Gauri, Guru Ratikant Mahapatra, Guru Bichitrananda Swain and Sujata Mahapatra, and Abhinaya (expressional dance) with Guru Kalanidhi Narayanan. She was the first student to graduate from the Nrityagram School. Ms. Sen shares an artistic partnership with Bijayini Satpathy for over two decades and together they have researched and expanded the dance vocabulary of Odissi dance and have developed an aesthetic style that distinguishes the dancers of the Nrityagram School. Attracted to choreography from her first exposure to western makers of dances, she has worked with dancers and choreographers from across the world. She has a keen talent for music and rhythm and is also involved in  composition. Ms. Sen has choreographed six Ensemble shows and two Duet shows for Nrityagram including Śrī: In Search of the Goddess (2000), Ansh (2004), Sacred Space (2006), Pratimā: Reflection (2008) commissioned by the Joyce Theater’s Stephen and Cathy Weinroth Fund for New Work as part of their 25th anniversary celebrations and premiered in February of 2008 at the Joyce Theater, New York, Saṃhāra (2012), Śriyaḥ, Saṃyoga (2012), and Songs of Love and Longing (2013).

Chitrasena Dance Company
Founded by Chitrasena in 1943, the Chitrasena Dance Company, Sri Lanka’s oldest and most prestigious dance company has been the vehicle for this great maestro’s innovative work both in traditional dance forms and contemporary dance theatre. The uniqueness of Chitrasena’s art lay in his ability to extract the essence of the traditional and distil it into a purely theatrical and aesthetic expression without jeopardizing the authenticity of the former. The Dance Company has set the standard for both traditional and contemporary dance performance and has transformed the dance theatre scene in Sri Lanka. The Chitrasena Dance School was the centre of new forms of arts and culture from the 1940s to the 1970s and became a cultural haven for leading artists from across the globe, including Martha Graham, Paul Taylor and Ravi Shankar, amongst others. Today his Dance School and Company have not only nurtured his legacy but have taken it forward into the 21st century. Led by Chitrasena’s wife Guru Vajira Chitrasena, daughter Guru Upeka Chitrasena and grand-daughter Heshma Wignaraja, they continue to forge new paths and create the benchmark for Sri Lankan dance the world over. Hailed for being pioneers and revolutionaries, they experiment without compromise and use traditional dance language and form to create cutting-edge contemporary dance theatre.


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