Staten Island is home to the largest Sri Lankan community in the U.S. and Kandyan dance school, the Sri Lankan Dance Academy of NY (SLDA). Founded in 1992 by Tanya DeSilva (student of Chitrasena school in Sri Lanka), the Sri Lankan Dance Academy of New York is led by internationally recognized professional Kandyan dancer Dilhan Pinnagoda. The Sri Lankan Dance Academy of New York seeks to preserve the significant cultural and artistic heritage of Sri Lanka in America through both traditional and contemporary drumming and dancing. As cultural ambassadors and highly adept educators, SLDA’s gurus and dancers consistently impress new audiences with their artistry and skill.
The academy offers weekly classes in traditional Kandyan dance, drumming, and other Sri Lankan dance styles in its quest to maintain the practice of, and pass on these traditions within the community. Specializing in Kandyan (upcountry) dance, SLDA now boasts three satellite schools (Staten Island, Queens & New Jersey) that teach individuals ages 5-25, a pre-professional company and performing ensemble which has performed Kandyan, Low Country and other traditional dance/music forms for both local and national venues.
Under the direction of Dilhan Pinnagoda, they produce annual recitals, Sri Lankan cultural events and perform widely throughout the New York tri-state area sharing the art form with the larger community and presenting nuanced and authentic examples of this Sri Lankan art form. In 2014, the school conducted the first-ever Pahim Path Mangalya held in the U.S. graduating a cohort of senior dancers on to the next level in Kandyan dance. By 2020, SLDA has created over 4 productions of Nrutha Haramba Sara.
Recent performances by the Sri Lankan Dance Academy of New York include citywide and national stages: National Folk Festival – Greensboro, North Carolina; Montana Folk Festival; Richmond Folk Festival; Bangor Folk Festival; Lowell Folk Festival, The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art and WNYC’s Greenspace.