Music in and for Bharathanatyam- A Survey report (Part 1)

“Geetham vaadyam tathaa nrityam, trayam sangeetham uchyate” – Sangeetha Ratnakara

What’s the scene and perception today?-  A survey report


Asha Ramesh, a carnatic vocalist trained under Sangeeta Kalanidhi D. K. Jayaraman was hosted on Jaya TV’s Kalaimalar, their morning talkshow. Now a part of Smt . Ranganayaki Jayaraman’s (saraswathi Gana Nilayam) family, she accompanies dance kutcheris in Chennai and in US where she currently resides. She described her experiences as a dance musician. She mentioned that her Guru wasn’t very happy when she mentioned to him that she was considering accompanying dancers! She believes dance music dosent deserve the step-child treatment it currently receives and believes singing for dance can be an intellectual challenge.

Sri. V.P. Dhananjayan in his book “Beyond Performing Art and Culture – Politico-Social aspects’ ” vehemently regrets the current compartmentalisation of dancers and musicians. He says,” I have a problem with Carnatic musicians who do not attend any Bharatanaatyam performances.  I do not know whether they have a superiority complex or whether they feel that they cannot enjoy a Bharatanaatyam performance. If a musician cannot understand or enjoy a Bharatanaatyam performance, I am sorry to say that they are not a “Sangeetagna”. He has also in a response to a comment on the article said “since publishing this article a couple of years ago, the situation has improved for better.” (As quoted in

Bombay Jayasri in her recent interview to Sruti recalls how her early dance training at Rajarajeswary Natyalaya at Bombay helped her accompany Leela Samson’s dance recital

Objectives of the Survey

Inspired by the above, we set about doing an article about Music in and for Bharathanatyam for BN & WWW. We planned to look at the general perceptions regarding music in and for dance among dancers, musicians, teachers and rasikas.


A questionnaire was randomly emailed to few dancers, musicians, teachers and rasikas who had interacted with BN and WWW on previous also hosted the questionnaire on their website and replies posted as comments on their website was also used for collecting data. It should be said at the outset, this study may at best be considered a pilot study since n (the number of respondents) is small and no systematic attempt was made to correlate the surveyed proportion of musicians/dancers/teachers/rasikas to what would be a general representative of people in attendance of a dance recital. But nevertheless this small survey would reflect existing expectations and perceptions in the group surveyed.

The survey questionnaire included a total of 9 questions relating to:-

  1. What qualities are expected of a musician accompanying a dance recital? (4 ques)
  2. Dancers need for music knowledge/appreciation-(2 ques)
  3. Does an appreciation of dance improve skill sets of a musician?(1 ques)
  4. Do professional singers feel comfortable accompanying dancers? (1 ques)
  5. CD as a substitute for live orchestra (1 ques)

Most of the answers needed the respondents to ascribe a numerical value in the space provided at the end of the question/statement.The respondents were asked to rate their responses to a question/statemenr on a scale of 0- 10 , with 0 meaning you strongly disagree and 10 meaning you strongly agree 


strongly disagree                                      strongly agree

 For eg, if they strongly felt that good music accompaniment was necessary for a dance program they would perform/attend they score it 10

 A few optional open ended questions were included and the respondents were also given an option to add related information as they deemed fit. The questionnaire was sent initially to a dancer, rasika and musician to verify the face and content value and aptness of the survey material. Modifications suggested were incorporated. The data collection was done between Oct 25th and Nov 8th, 2009.


The  demographics of the responses

A total of responses from 26 respondents are used in this survey. Their classification as dancers, musicians, dance teachers and rasikas are based on their voluntary recommendation appropriate to their current situation. There are a few who definitely belong to 2 classes and we placed them in what we considered was the most appropriate. 54% of the respondents were either dancers or dance teachers, 34% rasikas and 12% were musicians, which is so because of the nature of visitors to this blog. Nevertheless it should be noted that this may not be very different from the actual attendees of a dance concert itself, where the audience consists mainly of dance students, dance teachers, rasikas (a major component being family and friends of students/dancers) and very few musicians. But we may never see 12% of the audience being comprised of musicians!  Again because of the viewership pattern of this blog 42% of the respondents are from India and the rest of the responses came from subjects in USA, UK, Malaysia and Australia. It was also noted that the categories of musicians, dancers, rasikas and teachers were equally distributed among participants of the survey from India and abroad.

Important ObservationsMDR

Comparison of responses among dancers, musicians and rasikas

Click on the image to view an enlarged version.

Important Observationsio

Comparison of responses from within and outside India

Click on the Imarge to see an enlarged version

These pictures might just give you an idea with regards to the responses. I believe they will make more sense along with the discussion that I am currently working on using the remarks from the survey.

Part 2- Discussions

4 responses to “Music in and for Bharathanatyam- A Survey report (Part 1)

  1. I think it would be more interesting to ask Padma Subrahmanyam why it took her many years to train K.S.Sudhaman how to play mridangam for dance!!!


    Found on :

    Is it mandatory to sing in ‘6’ shruthi for your music?

    In dance-dramas we need male and female singers. They can combine only in ‘6’ shruthi. For solo performances, 5 or 5 – 1/2 shruthi is fine.

    Have you tried training vocalists to sing according to your requirement?

    We did. The sad part is that after training for almost a year, they just leave. And they sing for other dancers. Besides, the musicians’ fees are so high these days. And we are very particular about the way the music is performed. Even the accompanying instrumental music has set patterns. One cannot just follow the vocalist or play anything. That is why most of the accompanists find it difficult to play here. But we want to retain the music as it was composed. Because my father has done the choreography according to the mood of the music. So, if we change the music pattern, the beauty of the dance choreography will be lost. Today we find very few artistes, mostly seniors, who do not compromise on the music. Many others leave it to the orchestra to perform what they wish.

    Do you use recorded music for performances?

    Never. The problems that dancers face with musicians has led to the use of recorded music. But there is no life when you use recorded music for a performance. It will lack the emotion that you find in a live orchestra. Only when there is an interaction between the musicians and the dancer, will the performance be alive and create the rasa.

    Hi Ashwini,
    Well that was quick! Thanks for the additional info. It will be intersting to see the results (once I compile them) in light of these statements.

  2. I think the root of the problem is that hardly any dancers of today can sing or play instrumental music professionally. It is the dancers who are to blame for their own foolish narrow-mindedness.

    Sangeetha: I agree that an appreciation of music could definitely be advantageous for serious students of dance. It is definitely sad when dance and music are looked at as mutually exclusive sets.For a rasika an appreciation of both is a boon. Those who grew up with music and dance all around should thank their stars. But developing an appreciation can be a learned process too
    As for the results the survey, from what I have compiled so far, it seems that dancers are indeed aware that they need to develop a good ear! I find this very positive!

  3. And this is why you wrote, “Come back to check out about these (30 hearing impaired) kids who are looking for your support!”? Support for their Bharatanatyam careers??? Are you seriously asking us to promote the deaf “dancers”?

    Sangeetha: I am aware of your attitude about dance being used as a therapy. But therapeutic role of dance is here to stay. One shouldn’t attend if it affects their sensibilities. There is absolutely no compulsion or competition.

    By the way, 25 respondents out of the 2.5 million (my estimate) represents nothing. If you blog has already 147,491 hits, why not keep this survey for a while longer?
    Sangeetha: 25 I agree is a little too less statistically speaking. And as I have said earlier, more than the actual numerical data and the differeces among groups it is their extended responses with respect to the qualities expected out of a dance musician, how carnatic music helps a dancer and what’s their attitude with CD as accompaniment that are interesting and thought provoking. A few have even gone on to speculate about why professional musicians dont accompany dancers. I will get all these compiled hopefully in a day or two. So that being my point of interest, I already find a pattern emerging and there is a strong similarity in the general ideas expressed .
    Wordpress stats shows around 250 hits per days. I am not sure about how it calculates this, and I am not sure about how many of these are unique visitors. I have absolutely no conatct with that many of readers.The response rate to emails was around 65%. Well you seem to be the most ardent follower of the blog. But I knew for a fact that your input would surface as comments.
    But if you are interested you can take it up from here. I can transfer the files to you.

  4. Will you support the visually impaired children’s initiative to become commercial airline pilots? Or surgeons? Or mentally impaired children to become politicians in Delhi?

    WordPress stats overstates the hits by 30% or so (it counts whenever your pages appear on the search results page of Google even if people don’t click on the link to your page!).
    If you want to get real statistics, register an invisible counter on (they have a special one for WordPress blogs), then insert it in your posts.
    Sangeetha :Thanks for the info about

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