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India - Music and Dance

India's Song

The Language of Dance

The Meaning of Dance

The Language of Dance - Description

Bharatanatyam dance is derived from the ancient Hindu tradition of Cathir, the art of temple dancers. A complex and beautiful art originally only performed by women, Bharatanatyam is now practiced by men and women, Hindu and non-Hindu alike. It has gained widespread popularity through its portrayal in popular Indian films and performances around the world.

The Meaning of Dance - Description

In India, dance is intended to be a sincere representation of the beauty of life and can even provide a glimpse of the divine. The distinctive hand and finger movements are called mudras, which is Sanskrit for 'spiritual gesture' and directly linked to Buddhism. Another interpretation is that they are a 'seal,' or finishing touch, on the mantra to which they are linked.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS - Music and Dance (Grades 6 - 12)

Music - Standard 7. Understand the relationship between music and history and culture
- Understand distinguishing characteristics (e.g., relating to instrumentation, texture, rhythmic qualities, melodic lines, form) of representative music genres and styles from a variety of cultures - - Classify unfamiliar but representative aural examples of music (e.g., by genre, style, historical period, culture)

Dance - Standard 5. Understand dance in various cultures and historical periods
- Know the role of dance in various cultures and time periods
- Know traditions and techniques of classical dance forms (e.g., Balinese, ballet)

Resource - McREL Content Knowledge – Standards & Benchmarks


1. What inspires music? Can you give examples? What songs do you know that tell a story?
2. Why is music important? What are the different reasons for listening to music? Are there different
reasons for creating music?
3.Charlie says, “Culture is an endangered creature.” What does this mean? Do you think this is true? What are elements of your culture that have “died off”? Would you describe them as dead or changed into something different?
4. Explain this quote, “India has many languages but shares music.” Do you have to understand the language to enjoy music?
5. Rajasthan has a “treacherous and formidable landscape”. How has that helped keep the culture alive in that area of India?
6. Describe a “raga.
7. How do dancers “translate” music? Do you “translate” music when you dance?
8. Explain the comment, “In dance, you entertain, but you also keep a place that is completely your
9. Describe the three elements of dance: expression, rhythm and melody.
10. What are some similarities between the music and dance of India and the music and dance of your country?