The gifted Thaji Dias is the Principal Dancer of the Chithrasena Dance Company. We begin our conversation, unsurprisingly, by getting Thaji to recall her first memories of dance, given the family and company she grew up in (including being chased away by her grand-father, Chitrasena).
Pegged to an interview with the mainstream press, Thaji is asked what she considers traditional dance, and why it is worth preserving. We go on to talk about the challenge of innovating (dance) within the traditions Thaji grew up with and seeks to preserve.
We talk about how, perennially, comparisons are made by critics and the media between Thaji as a dancer with Upekha’s and Vajira’s performances, and how Thaji deals with this.
Pegged to what Thaji said in a mainstream press interview around shows that are “very short, very quick and very slick” in order to bring new, younger audiences to watch Kandyan dance, she is asked how this is possible and where it will all end.
We go on to talk about Thaji’s interactions and subsequent performances with the Nrityagram Dance Company at, amongst other venues, the Joyce Theatre in New York, which ran to full houses, standing ovations and critical acclaim. Thaji is asked what this artistic collaboration meant for her as an artist and whether it managed to change her appreciation of the Kandyan dance form itself.
Thaji goes on to answer questions around the dedication required to become a good dancer, the sacrifices she has made, and when she thinks she will be confidence enough to dance some of the iconic characters in the ballets of Chitrasena and Vajira. She goes to explain what the Chitrasena Dance Academy’s mantra that ‘Dance is Sacred’ means to her, and why dance must be sacred if it is to mean anything.
We end the programme by Thaji going into how she would like to be remembered as a dancer.