Mandala South Asian Performing Arts Receives A MacArthur International Connections Fund Grant

Mandala South Asian Performing Arts Receives A MacArthur International Connections Fund Grant

Mandala South Asian Performing Arts has just announced that it is the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation International Connections Fund grant of $50,0000 for a cultural exchange with Sri Lankan artists. The MacArthur Foundation supports timely, unique and vital exchanges between Chicago and communities across the globe to learn about and produce new artworks. Each year, a handful of outstanding arts organizations are selected to be a part of the International Connections Fund program. Mandala will engage in an exchange with Sri Lankan artists led by a collaboration with dancer/educator Sudesh Mantillake to create a performance celebrating the Kandyan style of dance as part of a series of shows to educate and entertain the public about Sri Lankan culture and heritage.

The last time Sri Lankan dancers appeared as part of a highly visible international exchange was in 1893 when, as part of the World's Columbian Exposition, Kandyan artists performed in cages as so-called devil dancers at the Ceylon Pavilion. 125 years later, a welcome return to Hyde Park promises to be a historic and liberatory experience for both dancers and community members

Mandala Arts continues its important role presenting to new audiences in Chicago globally-recognized artists who are little-known in the U.S. Mandala is committed to exploring cultural differences, similarities and perspectives, and offering a variety of ways to engage, learn and participate.

In early 2018, through the generous support of the MacArthur Foundation, Mandala Ensemble dancers led by Artistic Director Pranita Jain Nayar and Ashwaty Chennat will travel to the University of Peradeniya, outside Kandy, a former capital of Sri Lanka's Central Province. There they will collaborate with students, local musicians and dancers, and community arts leaders to learn traditional forms of Kandyan dance, as well as the ways contemporary practitioners adapt those forms to their current culture. In turn, Mandala dancers will share their hybrid style of Bharat Natyam, India's classical dance form, and modern dance. Mandala premiered this process and their first modern Bharata Natyam dance work in October 2017. Called Unwinding, it was met with acclaim and continues to develop.

In fall 2018, Sudesh Mantillake and company travel to Chicago for a 2-week, multi-venue, educational and performance residency. Specifically, the residency includes collaborative and open rehearsals between the Sri Lankan and Mandala dancers, extended classes and performance opportunities with teenagers at Mather High School in West Ridge as well as other Chicago schools, community performances at a number of park locations throughout Chicago, and a culminating, evening-long event at the University of Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts in Hyde Park. Mandal previously presented an intimate evening with Matillake in 2017 at the University of Chicago. The final showing will be the result of more than 2 years of partnership and cultivation between the two groups.

The nine receipts of the 2017 MacArthur Foundation International Connections Fund Grant are Albany Park Theater Project, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble, Fifth House Ensemble, Green Star Movement, Mandala South Asian Performing Arts, SkyART, Young Chicago Authors.

Photo credit: Mark Costello

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