The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble
in collaboration with The Chitrasena Dance Company

Artistic Director / Choreographer / Sound Design
Surupa Sen

Music Composer
Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi          

Rhythm Composers
Dhaneswar Swain (India)
Presanna Singakkara (Sri Lanka)
Surupa Sen

Dancers (Nrityagram)
Surupa Sen
Pavithra Reddy
Anoushka Rahman
Rohini Banerjee
Daquil Miriyala

Dancers (Chitrasena)
Thaji Dias
Kushan Dharmarathna
Amandi Gomez

Musicians (India)
Jateen Sahu, lead vocal & harmonium
Rohan Dahale, chants & mardala (percussion)
Parshuram Das, bamboo flute
Siba Nayak, violin
Surupa Sen, lead voice (Poornāratī & Invoking Shiva) & manjira

Assistant Choreographer
Heshma Wignaraja (Chitrasena)               

Master Tailor
Ghulam Rasool

Executive Producer / Technical Director / Lighting Designer
Lynne Fernandez

Tour Management
Joanna Futral

Exclusive USA Tour Representation
Sandy Garcia   


The performance runs for 115 minutes including a 20 minute intermission


{Sanskrit: Invoking | Pali: Offering}


SANKIRTANAM (a prayer)

Wandering minstrels sing and dance in praise of Lord Krishna…
The lotus-eyed lord
with the flute in his hands
and a peacock feather in his hair.
The eternal lover,
the yogi,
the last refuge.
Protector of the universe,
he is the purest of all beings.
The only truth.

Dancers Anoushka Rahman, Rohini Banerjee, Daquil Miriyala, Pavithra Reddy, Surupa Sen


A poem from the Gita Govinda is interpreted through facial expressions (bhava) and gestures (mudra). Written in Sanskrit in the 12th century by the poet saint Jayadeva, the Gita Govinda is a romantic ballad about the immortal love of Radha and Krishna. It is a song of love and longing that reflects the Vaishnava belief that all humankind is feminine energy (Radha) constantly seeking union with the one male godhead (Krishna).

Annoyed with Krishna who flirts with other women, Radha is in a state of jealousy and yearning.
The Sakhi (friend) brings a message to Radha that Krishna awaits her.

“In the dark of the night
on the banks of the Yamuna river…
adorned with wildflowers and jewels,
Krishna awaits you.

His flute calls out your name,
as he wanders through the forest
caressing the breeze
for your touch.

He prepares a bed of love
and his eager eyes
search anxiously
at every stir of a leaf.

Do not linger, oh sensuous-hipped one.
Cast away these traitorous bells from your ankles
and drape yourself with the night.
Hasten to your beloved,
he awaits you.”

Dancer Surupa Sen


In most South Asian traditions, the arts serve as a medium to attain the highest state of being. Temple rituals integrate dance as an essential medium of worship to invoke and propitiate the powers that govern the natural order of the universe. 

Poornāratī, which means complete offering, seeks to invoke the principles of the Universe, both male and female, that we may dance in their Presence.

Odissi Dancers Anoushka Rahman, Rohini Banerjee, Daquil Miriyala
Kandyan Dancers Thaji Dias, Kushan Dharmarathna, Amandi Gomez





Attributed to Ravana, Sri Lanka’s great warrior king, who was a devotee of Shiva, the God of dance and destruction. 

From the forest 
of your matted locks
the celestial river Ganga.

A mighty serpent 
garlands you lovingly,
the glittering gem 
in his magical hood 
radiates brilliance,
that anoints the faces 
of the four-directions
with a delicate hue.

only by the sky,
a new-born moon jewels your locks  
and your forehead smoulders 
with the fire of your third eye. 

Your ceaseless drum song
pervades the universe, 
as you dance 
your fearsome Tandava. 

Perfect consort to Himalaya’s daughter, 
you are the ever-compassionate 
destroyer of evil.

Opening your third eye
you burnt to ashes
the God of Love,
the five-arrowed Kamadeva,
disrupter of your meditation.

You are the Universe. 

On you
I meditate.

on the funeral pyres
in my heart
and release me 
from this universe.

Dancers Thaji Dias, Pavithra Reddy


The Kandyan and Odissi dance traditions meet in space, to challenge, combine and embrace each other through musical conversation and rhythmic dialogue.

Dancers Pavithra Reddy, Rohini Banerjee, Thaji Dias, Amandi Gomez, Anoushka Rahman, Daquil Miriyala, Kushan Dharmarathna



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, 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.


For centuries, a temple has looked out at a turbulent sea, its walls dancing a prayer to the rising sun. Magnificent ruins like these, in Odisha in Eastern India, confirm that Odissi was performed as far back as 200 BCE. 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 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 worlds of magic and spirituality. Its sensuousness and lyricism reflect both the motifs of Odisha temple sculpture as well as the poetry from the deep wellsprings of Oriya music. 




Founded by Guru Chitrasena in 1943 with a vision to inspire and exhilarate through the traditional dances and drums of Sri Lanka, the Chitrasena Dance Company has always been at the forefront of transforming the traditional arts landscape of the island. Chitrasena is recognized for rescuing the traditional dances that were confined to village settings and presenting it to audiences in Sri Lanka and across the world. Enabling a path for the female dancer, Chitrasena, together with his wife Vajira, Sri Lanka's first prima ballerina, worked tirelessly for decades to carefully distill ancient rhythmic rituals, by reviving and refining elements of it while staying firmly rooted in the old, and developed an authentic dance language and presentation for the stage. Today his dance school and company is presided by wife Vajira and daughter Upeka, who continue to guide the Company to forge new paths and create the benchmark for Sri Lankan dance the world over. 

For over seven decades the 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. Karadiya (1961), Nala Damayanthi (1963), Nrithanjali (1965), Kinkini Kolama (1978), Shiva Ranga (1984), Chandalika (1996) and Bera-Handa (2001) are some of the most-renowned productions. More recently, the Chitrasena Dance Company has brought to the stage The Art of Chitrasena (2006), Kumbi Kathawa (2007), Dancing for the Gods (2010), Devanjali (2015) and Guru Gedara Festival (2018). The creative partnership and the first collaborative production, based on an invitation extended to the Chitrasena Dance Company by Nrityagram led to the much-acclaimed production Saṃhāra (2012).

The third generation is led by Heshma Wignaraja, Artistic Director and eldest granddaughter of Chitrasena and Vajira, who continues to take forward the legacy of her grandparents. Experimenting without compromise and using traditional dance language and form to push boundaries, the new work offers a fresh perspective, while upholding Guru Chitrasena’s philosophy that “the new is but an extension of the old”.


Nrityagram (which means dance village) is located outside Bangalore, India. It was founded in 1990 by Odissi dancer Protima Gauri, who converted ten acres of farmland into a setting for the study, practice and teaching of dance.

Nrityagram is dedicated to creating excellence in Odissi through the traditional method of learning, the Guru-Shishya Parampara, a unique and sacred relationship between mentor and disciple, referred to as mentorship in modern times.

Our dance pedagogy is inspired by the Gurukula, an ancient Indian residential teaching paradigm where students and teachers live together in an integrated environment of practice, theory and discipline. Learning is a way of life and students have a rare opportunity to imbibe the spirit of the Guru by living with them and observing them at work. 

Conceived this way, for over 30 years, Nrityagram imparts not only technique in dance but nurtures a philosophy of being that embraces holistic practice, mindful living and the pursuit of excellence. The daily schedule includes a unique, scientific body-conditioning and training programme that is sourced from Yoga, Natyashastra, Kalaripayattu, Western fitness methods and Odissi body-conditioning exercises. This training method is designed to increase the performance lifespan of a dancer and is sought-after by accomplished dance and movement professionals from different disciplines.

With a student strength of over 100, we provide an environment that fosters the artistic, intellectual and personal growth of our 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. 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 unique blend of traditional knowledge with contemporary understanding and application makes Nrityagram the only institution of its kind in the world and strengthens its position as a ground-breaking institution.

The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble is regarded as one of the foremost dance companies of India. Led by Artistic Director Surupa Sen, the Ensemble has achieved worldwide critical acclaim. performing across the globe including an annual tour to the United States.

The Ensemble is devoted to bringing Odissi - one of the oldest dance traditions in the world - to audiences worldwide. Performed as far back as 200 BC as a sacred ritual dedicated to the gods, Odissi speaks of love and union, between human and divine, transporting viewers to enchanting worlds of magic and spirituality. Its lush lyricism reflects both the motifs of Odisha temple sculpture as well as the poetry from the deep wellsprings of Oriya music.

Although steeped in and dedicated to ancient practice, the Ensemble is also committed to carrying Indian dance into the twenty-first century. Enabled by grants from International Arts Funding organisations, Nrityagram’s dancers not only explore creative expansions of tradition but are also able to commission fresh compositions from leading Indian classical musicians.

Nrityagram has presented seven full-length ensemble shows Śrī: In Search of the Goddess (2001), Ansh (2005), Sacred Space (2005), Pratimā: Reflection (2008), Śriyaḥ (2010), Saṃhāra (2012) and Āhuti (2019); two full-length duet shows Saṃyoga (2012) and Songs of Love and Longing (2013) and two full-length solo shows Yadunandana (2017) and Vinati: Songs from the Gita Govinda (2021). All choreographed by Surupa Sen.



SURUPA SEN (Artistic Director, choreographer, soloist)
was the first student to graduate from Nrityagram.
She began her Odissi training with the architect of Odissi, Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra. She also learned Odissi with Guru Protima Gauri, Abhinaya (expressional dance) with Guru Kalanidhi Narayanan, and the Natyashastra under the supervision of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam.
For over two decades, Surupa has researched and expanded the dance vocabulary of Odissi, and developed an aesthetic style that distinguishes the dancers from the Nrityagram Gurukula.
Attracted to choreography from childhood, Surupa has focussed on making new dances using an expanded Odissi language, rooted in traditional Odissi and the Natyashastra. She has a keen interest in music and rhythm composition and has worked closely with Pt. Raghunath Panigrahi since 1999.
Surupa has choreographed seven full-length ensemble shows for Nrityagram, which are Śrī: In Search of the Goddess (2001), Ansh (2005), Sacred Space (2005), Pratimā: Reflection (2008), Śriyaḥ (2010), Saṃhāra (2012) and Āhuti (2019); two full-length duet shows Saṃyoga (2012) and Songs of Love and Longing (2013) and two full-length solo shows Yadunandana (2017) and Vinati: Songs from the Gita Govinda (2021). She has also created two virtual shows - Vinati, a solo for World Music Institute’s Dancing the Gods Festival and Upadāna: An offering for the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. 
Surupa received the Raza Foundation Award in 2006, the Yagnaraman Award from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai in 2008, the prestigious Nritya Choodamani from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai in 2011 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award 2018 - the highest honour for the Performing Arts in India.
Surupa is Artistic Director and choreographer at Nrityagram.

PAVITHRA REDDY (Odissi dancer)
lives at a neighbouring farm and started her Odissi training in Nrityagram’s rural outreach programme in 1990. She was the first student to graduate from the rural outreach programme.
She learned Odissi under the tutelage of Surupa Sen and has worked with dancers and movement specialists from across the globe.
Pavithra joined the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble 1993 and has performed solo and with the Ensemble at some of the most prestigious venues across India and the world.
In addition to being a full-time performer, Pavithra teaches in Nrityagram’s residential and outreach programs and is the Director of Outreach Activities. 

ANOUSHKA RAHMAN (Odissi dancer)
initially learnt Odissi in Kolkata, where she also completed a post graduate degree in Odissi Dance. She joined Nrityagram 2018 and has studied under the tutelage of Surupa Sen.
Anoushka has performed with Nrityagram since 2021.

ROHINI BANERJEE (Odissi dancer)
is a senior disciple of Guru Sharmila Biswas, who trained her from the age of twelve. She has toured extensively in India and abroad as a part of her Guru’s company and recently started her journey as a soloist. 
Rohini has danced with Nrityagram since 2021.

DAQUIL MIRIYALA (Odissi dancer)
joined Nrityagram’s Village Outreach Programme in 2010 and became a residential student in 2011, where she trained in dance while continuing her academic studies.
She has learned Odissi under the tutelage of Gurus Surupa Sen and Pavithra Reddy.
In 2021 she was selected to be a part of the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble.

THAJI DIAS (Kandyan dancer)
is the principal dancer of the Chitrasena Dance Company and youngest grand-daughter of Sri Lanka’s eminent dance duo, Chitrasena and Vajira. 
At 7 she started learning Kandyan dance from her aunt Guru Upeka Chitrasena and began touring with the Dance Company at 12 when she received the opportunity to perform along with Upeka Chitrasena at the prestigious Theatre Du Soleil, Paris as a guest of Ariane Mnouchkine. Since then, she has performed with the Chitrasena Dance Company in Sri Lanka, India, the Far-east, United States, Europe and Australia. She also teaches at the Chitrasena Kalayathanaya (School).
Thaji has performed with Nrityagram since 2012.

joined the Chitrasena Kalayathanaya in 2000 as a scholar in Guru Vajira’s “Preserve the Dance” program. He has been a part of the Chitrasena Dance Company since 2002 and has performed in most of the Company’s productions locally and internationally.
Kushan holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Visual and Performing Arts, Sri Lanka and is currently doing a Masters in Performing Arts at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka.
Kushan has performed with Nrityagram since 2019.

AMANDI GOMEZ (Kandyan dancer)
has learned Kandyan dancing at the Chitrasena Kalayathanaya since she was 7 years old and has performed in numerous productions of the Chitrasena Dance Company since 2013, including a lead character in the acclaimed children’s ballet, Kumbi Kathawa in 2015. 
Amandi holds a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of London.
This is her first show with Nrityagram.

JATEEN SAHU (lead vocal, harmonium)
learned Odissi singing under the tutelage of Guru Ramahari Das at The Music College, Odisha. He lives in Mumbai and has worked with Nrityagram since 2008. He is also a concert singer.

ROHAN DAHALE (mardala - percussion)
began his training with Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra and has continued to learn from Guru Banamali Maharana for the past twelve years. He lives in Mumbai and accompanies Odissi dancers from the region. At present, he is percussionist at the dance village and travels and performs with the Ensemble.

PARSHURAM DAS (bamboo flute)
is a disciple of Pt. Mohini Mohan Pattnaik. He graduated from the Music College, Odisha and in addition to freelancing as a music accompanist, he teaches at Utkal University of Culture, Bhubaneswar. He has been with the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble since 2002.

SIBA NAYAK (violin)
has a postgraduate degree in Hindustani Violin from the Utkal University of Culture, Bhubaneswar. He freelances as a music accompanist and has worked with the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble since 2018.

HESHMA WIGNARAJA (assistant choreographer)
has a degree in Dramatic Arts in Dance from UC Berkeley. The eldest granddaughter of Chitrasena and Vajira, she returned to Sri Lanka after her graduation to work in the school and company established by her illustrious grandparents. 
She learned Kandyan Dance from the age of 6, performed and toured with the Chitrasena Dance Company from the time she was 14 years old, but her real interest is in dance making.  
Heshma has choreographed seven shows for the Chitrasena Dance Company, which are Barefeet in Motion (2003), Art of Chitrasena (2006), Guru Pooja (2008), Dancing for the Gods (2010), Ridmaranga – Vajira in Perspective (2013), Devanjali: Ritual_Rites_Reflection (2014) and Parampara: from generation to generation (2017) - a dance video installation. She has also worked as Assistant Choreographer with Surupa Sen on the Kandyan dance sections of Saṃhāra (2012) and Āhuti (2019).
Heshma is Artistic Director of the Chitrasena Dance Company.

LYNNE FERNANDEZ (lighting designer, technical director, Executive Producer)
has worked as an actress and light designer with many notable directors including Barry John, Joy Michael, Ranjit Kapoor, and Lillete Dubey, and was one of the first professional lighting designers in India. Her theatre work has been presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in the West End and off-Broadway.
She came to Nrityagram in 1993 as Production and Technical consultant to the newly founded Ensemble. She stayed on as Technical Director and in 1997 was appointed Executive Director of the Nrityagram Village, School and Ensemble.
As Executive Director, she is responsible for administration, fund-raising and project development. Her recent projects include Kula, a residence where arts practitioners can live and create new work. She is presently working on building a Performing Arts Centre comprising a theatre, an exhibition space and rehearsal studios.
She has also overseen the emergence of the Ensemble on to the international arena.