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Postcard from Sri Lanka ... Traditional Dance

Male dancer

The body decorations chime and rattle.

Dance is important in many cultures. It can relate historical events, and village stories (which can often be humorous and moralistic); and can also be used in religious and magic rituals.

There are two main styles of dance in Sri Lanka.

The dance of the lowlands (typically practiced in the coastal strip South of Colombo) and that of the highlands - often referred to as the Kandy School.

The Kandy school of dance is always accompanied by music from instruments such as drums (there are over 20 different forms of drums in Sri Lanka), cymbals and flutes.

The costumes worn by the dancers are richly decorated and colorful. The chests, backs and hips of the male dancers are covered in silver plates incorporating jewels, charms and pendants that chime and rattle at the slightest movement. The armbands and bangles worn by the dancers add to this sound. Exotic head-dresses are also worn.

The dances are quite dynamic and energetic. Facemasks form an important tradition in Sri Lankan dance culture. Probably some of the best examples of the traditional masks can be seen at the museum in Colombo.

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