Chitrasena | Doyen of modern Sri Lankan dance

At the young age of 15 he played the lead role of Siri Sangabo,the first Sinhala ballet produced and directed by his father Seebert Dias,the well_known actor,producer of the 20s and 30s and a luminary in the theatrical circles of the day.The talented youth was Amaratunga Arachige Maurice Dias and later known as Chitrasena,the doyen of modern sri Lankan dancing tradition.

      A pioneering dancer and choreographer Chitrasena,born on 28,January,1921,was internationally known for his work in establishing a modern Sri Lankan tradition of dance and popularizing traditional Sri Lankan dance forms worldwide.

 In 1936, Chitrasena played the the lead role of siri Sangabo at the Regal Theatre,and this made people take notice. D.B.Jayatilake,who was Vice Chairman of the Board of Ministers administration,Buddhist scholar,founder and first President of the Colombo Y.M.B.A. freedom fighter,Leader of the state Council and Minister of Home Affairs,was a great source of encouragement to the young dancer.

      chitrasena learnt Kandyan dance from Algama Kiriganithaya Gurunnanse,Muddanawe Appuwa Gurunnanse.Having mastered the traditional Kandyan dance,his 'Ves Bandeema'ceremony of graduation by placing the 'Ves Thattuwa'on the initiate's head followed by the 'Kala-eliya' mangallaya,took place in 1940.

      Chitrasena founded the Chitrasena Dance Company in 1943. He toured extensively in the provinces. Chitrasena's brother Sarathsena, a versatile drummer,and stster Munirani were associated in the early dance period. Munirani was a soloist in 'Vidura' ballet.

      Chitrasena established the first school of nationl dance,the Chirasena Kalayathanaya,in colombo at Kollupitiya in 1944. Starting as a small nucleus,the dance centre where Chitrasena lived and worked for 40 years was to become a landmark and a renowned cultural centre for dance enthusiasts and connoisseurs of the arts.

      Chitrasena considerd one of  his earliest works,the ballet 'Vidura' (1945), to be the important break-through in his experimenting with a new medium. It was only later,after he had judged the effect of this new thing on the audience,that he moved with full confidence into his sensuous creation, 'Nala Damayanti' (1950). In Karadiya (1961),he emerged as the master.In 1951,Chitrasena married his star pupil Vajira. He saw in her the makings of an outstanding dancer. She made her debut as soloist in the role of Prakriti in the ballet'Chandali' in 1952. Her rise to stardom was coupled with unswerving discipline and dedication both as teacher,performer and choreographer,even as she illumined her husband's career.

      He was the first professional artiste in Sri Lanka. He challenged the mood of the 30s and 40s and influenced in the dance annals of this country. He was the pioneer of the modern dance theatre,whitch proved a viable alternative to the changing social milieu that sustained the traditional dance rituals.


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