Kandyan Dancers & Drummers
With elaborate costumes, gyrating dance moves and show-stopping, fire-breathing stunts, a Kandyan dance performance is one of the defining experiences of a stay in Kandy. Calling it a traditional Kandyan dance performance is something of a misnomer as the shows are very much aimed at audience entertainment and contain dance routines and costumes from across the country, including the famous ‘devil’ dances of the west coast (which are very hard to see in their home region).
There are three main venues. All have nightly performances that last an hour (arrive there 30 minutes in advance to get a better seat). None of the venues have air-con, and all can get hot.
Kandy Lake Club Located 300m up Sanghamitta Mawatha, this place has arguably the best costumes of any of the venues staging traditional Sri Lankan dance shows. Performances often conclude with a 'fire walking' (stepping on burning coals) finale. Arrive early for good seats.
Kandyan Art Association & Cultural Centre This is the busiest dance-show venue and in high season it can be overwhelmingly crammed with tour groups. However, the auditorium makes it easier to take photographs here than at other venues. It’s on the northern lake shore. Be sure to arrive well ahead of time to secure seats.
Mahanuwara YMBA Southwest of the lake, the YMBA guesthouse is a low-key venue for Sri Lankan dance; the performances here are entertaining and the crowds somewhat thinner.
You can also hear Kandyan drummers every day at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and the other temples surrounding it – their drumming signals the start and finish of the daily puja (offering or prayers).
Alliance Française The Alliance hosts film nights (free on the first Friday of the month), and has books and periodicals. Good coffee is available. Nonmembers can browse the library.
British Council British newspapers, CDs, videos and DVDs, and occasional film nights, exhibitions and plays. Nonmembers may read newspapers on presentation of a passport.