The Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island is called “Little Sri Lanka” in honor of the vibrant immigrant community of 5,000 that is today the largest Sri Lankan enclave in the U.S. Founded 25 years ago, the Sri Lankan Dance Academy of NY (SLDANY) is committed to nurturing and sharing Sri Lankan traditions. It has received enthusiastic notice for introducing American audiences to the artistry of traditional Kandyan dance.
Kandyan, one of three national dances of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), is a centuries-old tradition in the central hill region of Kandy; the style is characterized by a calm, central core; intricate footwork, flowing arms, and acrobatic leaps; and a percussive, stomping beat accentuated by the jingle of the silambu on dancers’ ankles.
SLDANY’S performing troupe consists of dancers aged 17–27, accompanied by master drummer Uthpala Eroshan and master dancer, singer, choreographer and director Dilhan Pinnagoda. In 2014, the school presented the Pahim Path Mangalya, a challenging dance marking its 11 dancers’ attainment of mastery—the first time it has ever been performed in the U.S. “Although we were born and raised here, we’re still connected to our roots,” explains Sachindara Navinna, age 19. “Dancing has built me into a different person—it is about being humble, down to earth, disciplined.”