This article is from 2011.


Photography | Uma Dhanwatey

Ancient dance in a modern era

Studying for ten hours a day, six days a week for six years, the dancers at the Nrityagram school near Bangalore know that to truly absorb Indian classical dance takes time. The first student to emerge from the residential course, Surupa Sen graduated in 1996 and is now artistic director of the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble.

Along with two colleagues, Sen will be delivering solos, duets and trios created in the Odissi style. Although Nrityagram often tours with a larger group of dancers, for the Edinburgh International Festival, Sen has kept it deliberately small.

‘What we are bringing to Edinburgh is ten years of my own work,’ she says. ‘The main body of it has been created for three dancers, and all of us have been dancing together for 19 years. So we have a synergy that’s different from having other people dance with us.’

One of the defining factors of Odissi – a 2000-year-old temple dance style revived just 65 years ago – is the ornate garments, head gear and make-up worn by performers. Does that help with Sen’s own personal preparation? ‘Yes,’ she says. ‘It takes a long time but I think it helps you become that other character. You feel beautiful, you look beautiful and you’re ready to occupy a different space inside and out.’

King’s Theatre, 473 2000, 26–29 Aug, 8pm (Sun mat 3pm), £12–£30.

Sriyah - Edinburgh International Festival 2011


Exquisite Indian dance from the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, whose vibrant costumes and lively yet fluid movements depict an ornately carved Hindu temple springing into life and colour. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

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