Dance Tour of Sri Lanka

Dancer Krithika Shurajit writes on a recent tour to the island by a group of dancers.

Srilanka-Dance-Tour1It is every artiste's dream to perform overseas for the prestigious ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations).

And a recent invitation to tour of Sri Lanka was great news.

ICCR invited our dance institution "Thrayee" (based in Chennai, India) and guru Radhika Shurajit to undertake this tour.

Srilanka-dance-tour-2We took this seriously and put in long hours of tireless practice. And eleven of us took the flight to the island on August 30.

Our dancers have been on dance tours abroad but this one would take us by road to different corners and we looked forward to this experience.

On landing in the capital Colombo, we set off on a10-hour drive from Colombo to Jaffna. This tour gives you a good idea of the changing landscape of the island.

In Jaffna, the main big town in the north of this island, we began the tour with a lecture demonstration at the famous Jaffna Library - which has been completely re-constructed after it was destroyed in the ethnic war time.

The next day's performance was a traditional maargam on Lord Muruga, titled "Om Saravana Bhava"  at the well-known Sri Nallur Kandaswamy Temple - on Sept 1.

Srilanka-Dance-Tour3This show was organised by the Consulate General of India. What an exhilarating experience it was to dance in front of such a receptive audience. Every dance piece in the recital was welcomed and cherished with applause and we got a standing ovation.

This visit also provided us the opportunity to look around this famous temple.

The next day, we were off to a different location.

We had to cross the sea and we had a Sri Lankan Navy boat to take us to Delft Islands (Neduntheevu, as it is called in Tamil).

Srilanka-Dance-Tour4We were told that the community there would get to watch a Bharatanatyam recital after a long time.

The boat ride was by itself an adventure, with water splashing on our faces and the wind rushing through our hair. On our way back that night, the boat stalled and we were stranded mid-sea and waited patiently as the Navy staff fixed the problem.

We had to get back to Jaffna right after the show that night by the ferry as we had to drive down to the beautiful upcountry tea estates of Badulla the next morning.

Srilanka-Dance-Tour5Jaffna was a wonderful experience - meeting the Consul General and his lovely wife, a brief lecture demonstration by our guru, the comfortable accommodation and the meetings with warm people.

The road drive to Badulla was very scenic.

We had a lecture demonstration and a snappy workshop with children who were enthusiastic and involved. They showered each of us with handmade cards, gifts and flowers that moved us all.

Our audience for the full dance programme on September 5 also consisted of school children and students of dance besides rasikas.

Srilanka-Dance-Tour6This performance was organised by the Indian High Commission, Kandy. It was a success.

Four shows and two lecture demonstrations down, our last stop was at Galle, the most happening destination filled with tourists and dotted with beaches.

We drove down to Galle, which is a very touristy and historic place - visited the lighthouse and the beach and did some souvenir shopping as it was our last stop.

For this show, we had in the audience local artistes and dancers, The local area governor and some ministers also attended.

We realized that the one commonality in all our shows was just how involved and interested the audiences were. Despite language, religion and so many other barriers, dance and art brought us all together.

The Sri Lankan tour will remain fresh in our memories.

Krithika Shurajit is a Bharatanatyam dancer based in Chennai; she is the daughter and sishya of guru Radhika Shurajit.