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The relationship between dance and music is akin to the relationship between sound and sight. The potential link between dance (kinetic rhythm) and music (auditory rhythm) heighten the emotional experience. Both posit the foundation of harmony, balance and rhythm. The solo artist while performing various items of the margam reacts to the various elements of music like sollus (bol-s of dance), swara-s or notes, sahitya or lyrics, tala or rhythm and laya. Our sastras speak of anahata nada or imperceptible sound as the cosmic sound of the Absolute. This is the opposite of ahata nada, which is the perceptible sound. Through the sensuous mingling of the visual and auditory rhythms which are the ahata nada or perceptible sound, one can reach closer to sensing the anahata nada and the Absolute can thus be comprehended.

Bharatanatyam has as its base Carnatic music which is rendered vocally and accompanied by instruments like nattuvangam or cymbals, mridangam, violin, flute, veena all of which generate music that is not only soothing but energizing too.  

The nattuvanar wields the cymbals to rhythmic time measure which reciting the jathis or sollukkattu, while the mridangam or drum supplies support through fractional measures of the broad beats. The dancer follows the mridangam and cymbals. The violin, flute or veena accompany the vocalist who renders the lyrics based on which stories are enacted by the dancer. A tambura is often incorporated in the orchestra to provide the sruthi.

So, when a student of Bharatanatyam also learns Carnatic music, this training enriches the dancer’s experience further due to a better understanding of the internal relationship between dance and music. 


Vidhya Subramanian will be performing in New York, in a double bill featuring Odissi dancer Rahul Acharya on Saturday April 26th, 2014. 

Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 Laguardia Place, New York, NY, 10012, New York, United States

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