Dancing to Live Music | The Dance Bible
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Dancing To Live Music

Dancing to live music is an experience that is becoming rare nowadays considering the convenient reliability on recorded music and advanced music technology. Classical dancers, both Indian and western, use classical music in their dance studio and performances. But most of the street and contemporary dancers only use live music on experimental basis. Dancing to live music is challenging but also a fresh experience for both the performer as well as audience.

Let’s take a look at how dancing to live music is different and still continues to maintain its charm and respect among artists.



For Indian classical dancers, dancing on live music is not unusual. They work on their taal in their classrooms where teacher/guru uses a wooden block called ‘Tatta-kali’ to give rhythm and percussion. Tabla, harmonium, pakhawaj, flute and sarangi are other musical instruments that are used in different styles of Indian classical dance.

In western classical dance form like classical ballet, a piano master plays in collaboration with the teaching style of the ballet master and his class technique for the day. Of course, classical ballet performed in huge operas and auditoriums is always accompanied by a live orchestra.

Whereas in contemporary dance, there are always different instruments used to add a new flavour to the choreography. Recently, a beautiful and interesting dance performance called Inversion by Yuko Harada  in New Delhi, Kamani Auditorium was presented. The live musical instruments consisted of a small bell, a flute and a synthesiser. Sometimes a wooden table, claps, foot tapping are also used as a symbolic play in contemporary dances.



One of the reason dancing to live music is very different for a dancer is because in a class it is easier to listen to live music because of the confined space of the dance studio. However, when a dancer has to perform in front of big audience, the stage is bigger and the musical instruments have to be kept according to the stage setting. One has to be careful about the dimensions of the stage because live music requires careful planning of the placement of the musical instruments at the same time giving ample amount of space for the dancer.

In Indian classical dances, usually in fact, always the musical instruments are kept on stage left and the rest of the stage space is for the dancer to move freely. In classical ballet, the orchestra is in the huge space between the stage and the first row of the audience seating. It is very important to use microphone for the musical instruments. A dancer, therefore, has to coordinate in a very mindful manner to use stage space while dancing.

In contemporary dance, the use of live musical instruments, is often used symbolically and therefore the placement according to stage setting is completely depended on the choreography and its concept. For example, if the dancers are sitting on a chair and a table in between them is being used to create rhythm then the placement of the table will most probably be in centre. The traditional set up of keeping musical instruments at one place throughout the performance is changed in contemporary dance every time.



Dancing to live music is a partnership between a dancer and the musicians. Both need to work together in synchronisation for the success of the performance. During rehearsals in class, a dancer works not just in the choreography but also carefully listens if the musician/s make any changes or just strictly follows the set music. No matter what the length of the music or the performance, the musician/s cannot show tiredness. Likewise, a dancer should not miss any dance step which is perfectly coordinated on the set music.

Making improvisation with the music or dance steps is always risky. However, there are some performers who like the challenge and could also feel a real intensity in live music than in a recorded song.



The importance of live music is in its freshness. Every time a musician is on stage, the same set of music may have a different mood. This also affects the dancer and his or her dancing. For dancers, listening to music becomes top priority as compared to recorded music that seems repetitive. Dancers learn the importance of carefully listening to every single detail, every single rhythm and wavelength that is part of the soul of the music. The more a dancer listens to the music, the more deeper meaning one can find in the layers of the choreography.

The music affects the dancer and the choreography but the biggest effect is seen in the response of the audience. Dancing to live music creates a unique performance of the same choreography and this is appreciated and understood by the audience. It is one the most cherished moments for any performer on stage that each dance choreography is repeatedly enjoyed by the audience.


Dancing to an amazing recorded music naturally attracts the audience. However, the relationship shared between the musician and the musical instrument, between the musician and the dancer, between the dancer and the musical instrument helps in growth of an artist at a much deeper level. Dancing to live music helps the audience, dancers and musicians develop greater respect for music.