Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yes you can, but SHOULD you? : Music

The title of this week's post is a question I often (and infamously) ask of my students in the fusion workshops I teach.  It can refer to costuming, moves, props, group interaction, general presentation, audience participation, make-up, or music.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about music.  Partly brought on by some of my students trying to choose music for their first solos, partly by the fact that I'm enamored with my car's sound system.  And that I seem to have developed an obsession for Florence + The Machine (which if you're my friend on facebook, this is not news to you whatsoever.)

In particular, I was thinking how much I am IN LOVE with specific songs, but there's no way I can see myself actually bellydancing to them. (I do however, sing along with them, but only in my car...alone.) This was a bit of a surprise to me on several levels, so it made me stop and think about why.

The songs definitely made me feel something - I could definitely move with them and translate the energy and feel of the song through my body, but the movement language it required was definitely not bellydance.  Now, I don't believe that a song must be Arabic/Middle Eastern in order for it to work with bellydance - rather, I often apply that musical interpretation/approach to what I'm dancing to for fusion - but it doesn't work for every song, and I think that's one of the things you really only learn with time, especially the deeper you explore the roots of the dance. 

In the last couple of years, I have enjoyed the challenge of going back to sets I performed to when I first started dancing.  Some pieces, I have been extremely excited about all over again, in a whole new way - I hear them differently, can apply far more control and quality then I was able to the first go-round. Other pieces, I am just dumbfounded at how I thought I could bellydance to it in the first place - danceable, yes, bellydanceable, not so much, or at all.  Yes, it's quite common that once you learn bellydance, it certainly infiltrates everything you do, including when you go to the club and want to social dance. But when you take it to performance, it becomes a different territory.

The revelation is: just because you love a song, doesn't mean it's going to work for a bellydance performance.  Ask yourself, why do you love it?  What about it grabs you? What kind of movement does it inspire you to do?  Is that movement bellydance-oriented? And by bellydance-oriented, I'm not talking fusion elements (popping, locking, whacking, strobing, glitching, and various other -ing's), I'm talking BELLYDANCE here. If you're suddenly confused about what that means then, time to do some research.


  1. Great post and I will see you soooo soon At TFF! : D

  2. Once again, you knock the bellydance ball out of the park!

  3. Florence and the machine made me buy a ukulele, but dancing to their songs stays in the privacy of my living room. 8)

  4. Fully agree with you on this. Just because it's a great song and you *can* belly dance to it, doesn't mean that it's going to make a great belly piece.

  5. I think the problem is that dance is like language... once you learn one dance well enough, it's hard not to "translate" everything into your idiom. I also have that problem with doing bellydance moves to every kind of music in club dancing (or most recently for me, to New Orleans brass band music!), and not really being able to kick out of it. Or of taking a semester's worth of flamenco classes, and then having to try to force my hands not to do floreos!