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Contemporary dance to the fore

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Sri Lanka’s first-ever international contemporary dance festival nATFEST in November, curated by Kapila Palihawardana of nATANDA Dance Theatre of Sri Lanka

nATFEST is Sri Lanka’s first-ever international contemporary dance festival curated by Kapila Palihawardana of nATANDA Dance Theatre of Sri Lanka. 

Six international contemporary and traditional dance companies will perform together with six local contemporary dance companies in a unique first-of-its-kind performance. The performance will be staged from 14-18 November from 7 p.m. onwards at the Lionel Wendt Art Centre, Colombo 7.

The objective of this festival is to bring together a diverse set of artists for the first time in Sri Lanka. nATFEST brings contemporary dance theatre to the fore, bringing Sri Lanka to the platform for contemporary dance in Asia.

nATFEST aims to bring different cultures together, enhancing tourism, highlighting dance and entertainment together with our rich traditions in the art and the history of this country. nATFEST also focuses on dance and reconciliation bridging differences in our own country and cutting across boundaries of ethnicity, disability and ego.

This festival is further enhanced by the international and local artists workshops conducted over five consecutive days. 150 young dancers will take part in this training program gaining valuable exposure to the style and technique of contemporary dance. This program is open to the public.

All performances will commence at 7. p.m.



International groups 

  •  Lebanon: Ali Chahrour, 15 November
  •  United Kingdom: The Aviary Birdgang Dance Company, 15 November
  •  Malaysia: Lawrence Sackris, 16 November
  •  United States of America: Oliver Tharpaga, 16 November
  •  South Korea: Goblin Party, 17 November
  •  India: Manipuri and Contemporary Dance Exponent Sanjib Bhattacharya, 17 November Local artists
  •  Natanda Dance Theatre of Sri Lanka – 14 November
  •  Jonson Rajkumar – Jaffna, 15 November
  •  Sithija Performing and Dance Academy – Ratnapura, 16 November
  •  Batticaloa Theatre Lab – Batticaloa, 17 November
  •  Fingerprints – Colombo; choreographed by Malith Upendra, 17 November
  •  Naadro – Colombo, 18 November
  •  ATANDA Community Dance – Kandy, 18 November


Kapila Palihawadana

nATANDA is a contemporary dance company based in Colombo, founded as a non-profit organisation in 2002 and established as a contemporary dance theatre company in 2005 by its choreographer and Artistic Director Kapila Palihawadana.

Palihawadana as a young boy was trained as a traditional Kandyan, Sabaragamuwa, Low Country dancer and thereafter received his training in Classical Ballet by Usha Saravanamuttu. Palihawardana trained as a Modern Dancer in Germany in 2005. There he learned choreography techniques from Irina Pauls and Manuel Quero.

In 2011, Palihawadana was selected to Amsterdam’s International Choreography Guest Artist Residency Program ICK, directed by Emio Greco.

Palihawadana is one of five international artists who was awarded a three-month residency creative artist program through the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion International Artist-in-Residence Program in Ohio, USA. He was hosted full time by Inlet Dance Theatre, collaboratively creating a new form of art, Chakra in 2012.


The main mission of nATANDA is to break the boundaries of dance theatre, looking beyond form, physicality, culture and geography.

nATANDA stands today as Sri Lanka’s premier contemporary dance company. Its choreographic style is distinctive, not only in how it infuses traditional Kandyan dance, ballet, yoga and Bharatha Naatyam to create a unique form of contemporary dance, but also in its creation of contemporary Sri Lankan dance theatre, challenges its dancers to express their individuality from the expression of their bodies in a collective process.

nATANDA dancers are primarily trained in contemporary dancing, and have showcased their work nationally and internationally. The Principal dancers of nATANDA are Malith Upendra, Dakshika Bandara, Kalani Sachithra, Lasanthi Dilhani. The Apprentice dancers are Harsha Nanayakkara, Hasini Wijeyabandara and Tanuja Damithendri. The Trainee Dancers are Lakni Kalpana, Stivi Gooneratne, Roshan Senevirathna, and Shehani Jayamaha.

Beyond its innovative contribution to contemporary art in Sri Lanka also lies nATANDA’s social value. Unlike most dance companies in the country, nATANDA has actively promoted community dance education by conducting workshops in schools, often among low-income communities, and it attempts to bridge certain boundaries of ethnicity, religion and class by seeking to involve dancers of various social backgrounds. nATANDA has also provided dance workshops to over 2,000 young people among different communities across Sri Lanka. As a result of this nATANDA Community Dance Center was established in 2014.

Collaborating with different ethnicities soon after the war was such a production, Ravens, which was awarded one of the five best choreographic works for Asian Dance Productions out of 16 Asian countries and 65 Asian dance choreographies in 2011 in South Korea. Ravens is a dance production which focuses on peace building through dance and was supported by the Prince Claus Foundation and Commonwealth Foundation.

nATANDA will perform the Butterfly on the opening night in line with their peace and reconciliation theme.

Pix by Upul Abayasekara




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