Dance performance ‘Āhuti’ is dazzling at Ferst

The First Center for the Arts hosted a dance performance called ‘Ahuti’ presented by the critically acclaimed Nrityagram Dance Ensemble in collaboration with the Chitrasena Dance Company. // Photo by Madeline Dunn Student Publications

On March 29, the Ferst Center for the Arts hosted “Āhuti,” presented by the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble in collaboration with the Chitrasena Dance Company. 

“This is actually the last time this show is going to be performed in the United States. It’s been touring for several years, so it’s very special in that realm. That to me is very exciting,” said Nathalie Matychak, Assistant Director of Producing & Residency for Georgia Tech Arts (GT Arts) in reference to Āhuti’s U.S.-Canada tour.

Kandyan dance originated in Sri Lanka as a ritual called Kohomba Kankariya that is said to bring prosperity by preventing disease, curing illness and celebrating the harvest. Guru Chitrasena, the founder of Chitrasena Dance Company in the 1940s, adapted seven-day rituals of Kohomba Kankariya into the modern format of Kandyan performances we observe today. The dance is characterized by deep bending and upbeat, lunging lower body movement paired with smooth and graceful flowing arm movements.

Similarly to Kandyan dance, Odissi dance has deep and grounded leg work, but it is more characterized by elegant, static posing of the arms paired with charming facial expressions. Historically, Odissi dance originated in the coastal regions of southern India as a religious dance used to tell stories and myths, often centering around relationships between humans and the divine.

 In 1990, the Nrityagram Gurukula was founded as a communal place to live and study Odissi dance. “Nrityagram” directly translates to “dance village,” and “Gurukula” means “school.” 

Surupa Sen, the choreographer of the show, was the first graduate of the Gurukula, and she went on to found the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, which is now celebrated as one of the finest classical Indian dance companies in the world. 

“The entire company lives in Bangalore, India together. Morning, noon and night, they study dance, and they live and work together. It’s very intensive — their entire life is dedicated to this art form, so I am sure thousands of hours of dedication have gone into what you’re going to see tonight,” Matychak said in reference to the Nrityagram Dance Company.

The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble has been chosen twice for “Best Dance of the Year” (2015, 2016) and has previously collaborated with the Chitrasena Dance Company in 2012 and again in 2018 for their world-famous and critically acclaimed performance of “Samhāra.”

The blend between Chitrasena’s Sri Lankan dance style and Nrityagram’s Southern Indian dance style created a captivating whirlwind of expression onstage, combining the upbeat, free-flowing Kandyan rhythm with intriguing, elegant and mystical Odissi storytelling. 

Paired with colorful, embellished, luxurious traditional clothing and a live performance of flute, percussion, harmonium and vocals, the performance was truly opulent.

“My main goal for Georgia Tech Arts is to really reflect the student population back through the work that we’re bringing and really try to bring things that excite our students, staff, and faculty,” Matychak said about her motivations to bring dance performances to Tech’s campus.

In the week leading up to the performance, GT Arts also hosted a masterclass for students to attend to learn from the dance companies. 

“These are students that have trained in classical dance before and some had never, so it was really cool to watch everyone interact with the dancers,” Matychak said. “I’m hoping that it excites people — it’s something that people don’t see every day here, so I’m hoping that students in Indian dance groups here are excited.”

Matychak expressed that she looks forward to the plans GT Arts has in store for the future. 

“I’m excited to just keep calling in incredible performers and performance groups, as well as calling in the professional Arts Atlanta community … Also uplifting our creative Registered Student Organization groups, which we’re going to do during our Tech Arts Fest April 15 through the 19 — you should come
back for that,” she said.

For more information on GT Arts and future events, visit their website at