Center for the Arts Presents Nrityagram Dance Ensemble

Posted: April 26, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Photo by Sonia Manchanda

The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble returns to the Center for the Arts on Friday, May 5, at 8 p.m. in a presentation with Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS).

In a Washington, D.C., area premiere, the ensemble will perform “Sacred Space/Margam – the Path,” an incredible journey into the inner reaches of sacred Hindu temples.

As Nrityagram’s artistic director, Surupa Sen, explains, “The first half of the performance will be pure dance, pure movement, while the second half tells stories, taken from mythology, usually poetry.”

Nrityagram’s dances are recreations of typical Odissi recitals, which normally progress from mangalacharan (an invocation) through pallavi (pure dance) and traditional abhinaya (interpretive verses) to moksh (dance of liberation). Although the Odissi dance form is centuries old, Surupa Sen explains that “Sacred Space” is new and the choreography totally original. She says, “Odissi is the language with which we tell the story.”

Sen goes on to explain that Odissi is a “more rounded, lyrical and sensuous” dance than the other classical forms. Intricately related to the temple architecture and sculptures, Odissi lets statues become a moving motif. “Wherever you catch a movement,” comments Sen, “it’s a replica of something from the temple.”

The Nrityagram dancers are renowned for their impeccable precision, timing and relation to each other – qualities gained through intense training and communal living on the Nrityagram village outside Bangalore. The dancers tend the grounds and grow their own food and study yoga, Sanskrit, dance history and philosophy. In this way, explains Sen, the dancers learn that “dance is a way of life, that it is a tradition rather than a technique.”

A pre-performance discussion begins 45 minutes prior to the curtain on the hall’s Grand Tier.

Tickets are $42, $34 and $21. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit

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