ARTRA’s Top 10 of Artist Challenge l Dance l Danuka Ariyawansa

The winner of ARTRA’s artist challenge under the category of dance, Danuka Ariyawansa sets out to find novel horizons through the traditional Kandyan dancing of Sri Lanka. He fuses the age-old heritage of this acclaimed art form with the modern landscapes of performance arts, bringing the rich tradition and manifold possibilities entailed by traditional dancing in front of the world. His performances create a spectacle of traditional dancing in its glory all the while speaking ardently of his passion towards it. It is with pleasure we present Danuka Ariyawansa, applauding him for his mesmerizing artistic expressions and highly vocal bodily moves, and the promising future he ensures in regard to the Sri Lankan art scene.

Young Danuka Ariyawana's entrance to the art scene was not through dancing. “I remember my dear mom Ranjani Perera Ariyawansa wanting me to become a musician and sending me for music lessons when I was really young,” Danuka recalls. It took him only a while to realize that his talent and potential laid somewhere else. Thus he turned to dancing, the art form he is destined for that welcomed him with open arms. He started studying the vast and boundless art form that dancing is, learning Kandiyan dancing under the tutelage of Mrs. Indrani Manjula, Pahatharata dancing under Mrs. Manjula Nishanthi and Mr. Dharshana Piyarathna, and Sabaragamuwa dancing under Mrs. Mallika. After a break of ten years that followed his GCE O/L examinations, Danuka reconnected with his beloved art form with the aid of a prominent figure in Sri Lankan dancing; he fondly remembers Dr. Vajira Chitrasena (featured on ARTRA April 2020 E53 Of Sublime Legacy), who helped him improve his stamina and prepare his physique after spending ten long years detached from dancing. Currently, he is studying under Dr. Vaidyawathi Rajapaksha, following the ancient 'gurukula' tradition where the student-teacher bonding reaches deeper levels since both live together as family members.

Danuka is an artist who believes in quality, not quantity. His private and public performances, therefore limited to specific venues, ensure an aesthetic experience that can be described as nothing but a spectacle on the stage. It is the vast scope of his performances and their sheer magnificence that drew us to recognize Danuka. Some of his public performances include Chandra Vannama performed as the show-stopping piece on the opening day of International Battery Dance Festival 2017, New York, Vannama Ukusa performed as a tribute to Guru Nittawela Mulyakdessalage Gunaya to mark the opening of SIBU international dance festival 2018, Malaysia, Vannama Asadrusha performed at the opening of International Battery Dance Festival 2019, New York and Vannama Gajaga performed as a representation of Sri Lankan art at U. A. E. Emirates Airlines Headquarters auditorium. We celebrate Danuka Ariyawansa, for every single moment spent by him on the stage clad in elegant attires symbolic of the glory of the artistry promises to offer the audience an aesthetic encounter that one comes across once in a lifetime.

For Danuka, dancing is living in the moment. “Dancing means nowness for me," he says, emphasizing that the artistic encounter of dancing requires an uninterrupted and total connection with the living moment. "One must focus on the present while dancing. If the mind is not focused, dancing could no longer breathe on par with music and the dance loses its spirit." The unique characteristic of Danuka Ariyawansa emerges from his ability to translate and transfer to the audience the spiritual serenity and calmness that emerge from the fluidity of his bodily movements coupled with carefully conjured facial expressions of his dancing, which compelled us to recognize him as the winner of ARTRA’s artist challenge. Engulfed in dancing body and mind simultaneously, he enters a world of "peace, devotion, and brightness" that trespasses, and further transcends the physical world; it is his ability to transform his audience in to inhabitants of this world of artistic serenity that makes him a cut above the rest, we believe.

Through this twofold dialogue of aesthetic pleasure between the performer and the spectator, Danuka attempts to promote, preserve, and reintroduce the majesty of Kandyan dancing – a vision we find praiseworthy. He envisions a Sri Lankan dancer who is locally and internationally respected and recognized. We celebrate him for attempting to educate the Sri Lankan dancing community whenever he is presented with the opportunity, believing that the artist him/herself is responsible for the way the Sri Lankan traditional dancer is perceived at large. We applaud how he reintroduces forgotten moves, giving rise to long-lost techniques that are unveiled through the culmination of the new and the traditional that occurs in correspondence. Through his perfectly and timely enacted movements complimented by articulate facial expressions, he evinces that the traditional Kandyan dancing is capable of putting forth a story that enhances and augments the sheer beauty of the performance without defiling the originality of it. Simply put, he reinterprets the traditional Kandiyan dancing through his artistic eyes that comprehend the reality and the infinite possibilities available for the Sri Lankan traditional dancing.

ARTRA celebrates Danuka Ariyawansa as an exceptional artist; with his versatile insights of the traditional art and the innovative approach, he has been successful in bringing the traditional Kandyan dance to the spotlight. It is evident that he secures a rather prominent place in the Sri Lankan art scene.

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22nd May, 2020 Performance Art