Proper connections between centromeres and spindle microtubules are of critical importance in ensuring accurate segregation of the genome during cell division. Using an in vitro approach based on the sequence-specific budding yeast centromere, we identified a complex of the chromosomal passenger proteins Bir1 and Sli15 (Survivin and INCENP) that links centromeres to microtubules. This linkage does not require Ipl1/Aurora B kinase, whose targeting and activation are controlled by Bir1 and Sli15. Ipl1 is the tension-dependent regulator of centromere-microtubule interactions that ensures chromosome biorientation on the spindle. Elimination of the linkage between centromeres and microtubules mediated by Bir1-Sli15 phenocopies mutations that selectively cripple Ipl1 kinase activation. These findings lead us to propose that the Bir1-Sli15-mediated linkage, which bridges centromeres and microtubules and includes the Aurora kinase-activating domain of INCENP family proteins, is the tension sensor that relays the mechanical state of centromere-microtubule attachments into local control of Ipl1 kinase activity.