As I have been writing on the dance performances, I used to wonder, as to what is the musical content of Bharathanatyam. We are aware, no song is taken up for abhinaya, unless it admits of intent ideas, capable of being intelligently portrayed, through a series of gestures. And we understand, to follow the sequences of abhinaya with interest,one should know both the language of the gestures and the bhava of the sahitya, of course, the padams of classical composers constitute a rich repertoire in the sphere of dance.
Just as the music admits of the divisions, art music, operatic music, martial music and folk music, dance also admits of the divisions. Art dance, sacred dance, dance pertaining the nritya nataka and kuravanji nataka, martial dance and folk dance. The sequence of the types of the ragas, adhered to in a music concert, has its parallel, in the sequence of items, in a concert of Bharathanatyam. Nritta, nritya and abhinaya, just as in art music, we experience gana, rasa or pure aesthetic joy and the applied music, other rasas, like devotion, love, heroism, disguise, wonder, in concerts of art dance, “Natya rasa” or pure aesthetic joy, (pertaining to the realm of dance).
The vocalists exercises practised in music, to attain high technique in performance, have their parallel in the ‘adavu jatis’ and other exercises, to attain the requisite technique and perfection in dancing. The ragas used in dance musical forms are all rakthi ragas, Ragas which have an emotional appeal and not ragas, which have as mere intellectual appeal, ragas, capable of evoking more than one rasa are generally used. According to the gradation of feeling, the composer resorts to the particular Raga and emphasises particular phrases in it. Taking an emotion like sorrow, for example, various gradations of this feeling can be effectively portrayed by ragas like Punnegavarali, Nadanamkrilya Muhari and Ahiri etc., of the musical forms used in Bharatanaytam the padams and pada varnams, have independant musical values.
Rhythm is the back bone of all dancing, when abhinayam is performed for a sloka, vrittam or other verses, there is no rhythm as such. The musical compositions sung in Bharathanatyam are not loaded with sangathis (variations) subtle nuances and excessive gamakas. If these technical beauties are present there will be a detracting factor weaning our attentions away from the dance. We should understand, corresponding to the ‘Sol fa’ syllables Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni, there are rhythmic ‘sol fa’ syllables in dance, and phrases of variegated beauty, are coined with these syllables and dances are performed lending certain liveliness, the like of which is unknown in the music of most other civilisation.