A question regarding the music and the moves

DancingArabian

New member
Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be offensive. So, if you're offended, I'm sorry, it's not my intent. Somehow I always seem to offend people with my questions.


This question stems from having read a few different threads regarding performances. The general tone from the responses that I've read is that if you're not dancing to Middle Eastern/Arabic music, then what you're doing is not belly dance.

So now I ask...why is that?

Or is this only the case for certain styles of belly dance?

I am NOT talking about the poorly executed moves that are common in fitness classes.

I'm talking about someone dancing with correct technique, but to NON ME/Arabic music. Someone who is NOT claiming to be a folkloric style dancer, but one who is just using "belly dance" in some way in their label.


Ballet danced to something other than classical is still considered ballet, isn't it?

Salsa is still salsa if you're Cuban, Colombia, Puerto Rican, etc (for those unfamiliar, Salsa is a term coined in the 50's/60's to a very old form of dance that is generally considered to be a sort of fusion that evolved over the years and came to be in the Carribbean, with the exact country of origin to be a bit of a contraversy.)
 

Kashmir

New member
I believe there is a little leeway. If your music is ME inspired or ME fusion in many cases no problems. But if you are using belly dance movement vocabulary to non-ME music I would consider the result belly dance fusion at best - and that only if the resulting performance still has the feel of the solo, improvised dance styles from the Middle East.

The movement vocab only with non-ME music can be a number of styles. What I see most often is jazz or theatre dance.
 

shiradotnet

Well-known member
This question stems from having read a few different threads regarding performances. The general tone from the responses that I've read is that if you're not dancing to Middle Eastern/Arabic music, then what you're doing is not belly dance.

So now I ask...why is that?

Or is this only the case for certain styles of belly dance?
It's a valid question.

The short answer: Would flamenco still be flamenco if you tried doing it to something entirely foreign to Spain, such as hiphop music? Would a czardas (traditional Hungarian dance) still be a czardas if done to Japanese pop music? Would hiphop dancing still be hiphop if you did it to a romantic Viennese waltz? In all cases, I would say no. I would say that music shapes the dance.

I used to think otherwise. I used to think that belly dance is still belly dance even when using non-Middle-Eastern music. But the more I learned about belly dance, the less I felt convinced of that point of view. Today, I feel the opposite - today, I feel that music is one of the elements that makes belly dance (as well as any other dance genre) what it is.
 
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shiradotnet

Well-known member
George Balanchine (famous New York City Ballet choreographer) said, "Dance is the music made visible."

Music really is the foundation.
 
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Munniko

New member
Is this mainly only true for traditional dances to countries that is tied to the culture. I know that in my background as a ballroom dancer you can do whatever style of ballroom dance you want as long as your rhythm matches. Heck we almost did a a performance to the song "Gold Digger" by Kanye West (if I remember right the song is I think a Two step/Fox trot) and it would have been considered fine.
 

Zumarrad

Member
Is this mainly only true for traditional dances to countries that is tied to the culture.
Yes, I think so. Ballet for example can be performed to anything, but it is still ballet because ballet is the movement. That said, it is usually performed to music especially composed for it.

But as you've said, in ballroom you can't *really* dance a foxtrot to anything, because it has to have the right underlying rhythm. Ballroom has certainly taken some Latin dances and turned them into something else. I mean, I don't consider ballroom tango to be tango. It's ballroom tango - inspired by the steps of tango, which was a musical style before it was ever a dance.
 

kina

New member
Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be offensive. So, if you're offended, I'm sorry, it's not my intent. Somehow I always seem to offend people with my questions.
(snipped for length)

Salsa is still salsa if you're Cuban, Colombia, Puerto Rican, etc (for those unfamiliar, Salsa is a term coined in the 50's/60's to a very old form of dance that is generally considered to be a sort of fusion that evolved over the years and came to be in the Carribbean, with the exact country of origin to be a bit of a contraversy.)

this is my first post on this board although I've lurked forever and a day...

So, I'll turn this around a bit. I dance salsa as I learned it, as a social dance amongst people who grew up with it. I'm Puerto Rican and we lay claim to it, so I recognize the controversy of which you speak.

And I can tell if the person who is dancing it is Cuban, Colombian, Puerto Rican or Dominican by their movement vocabulary.

When I dance to ME music and I hear a rhythm that matches the salsa rhythm (not surprisingly, there is a large overlap, considering that the ethnic history of Puerto Rico is heavily influenced by the slave trade to the America's and the Spaniards that were ruled by the Moors for 700 years) and my "accent" comes out.

Some dancers speak of an accent when people who did not grow up with the music of the ME learn to dance. How their dance is touched by the music, rhythmic patterns and muscle memory of their movement vocabulary PRIOR to learning ME dance.

My accent happens to be Puerto Rican and I will automatically default to a salsa step when their is rhythm that matches it (think Nour El Ain, by Amr Diab).

Am I then dancing salsa, or am I still dancing ME dance?

Raqia Hassan is a marvelous choreographer and her combinations are such that workshop participants spontaneously applaud them when she demonstrates them to the music. They *fit* the music absolutely beautifully.

There was one step that I could NOT execute to the music in the workshop that I attended, because muscle memory took over and my feet INSISTED on the salsa step.

Much like I have difficulty with the pronunciation of certain words that I *know* have a hard ch sound (e.g. Chicago) which *I* pronounce "shicago".

Sure, I can say it in English, but I don't pronounce it like a native speaker of English would, my accent is Spanish.

Same thing in dance. You CAN perform the dance, but you're taking it away from it's original music where the movements "fit", If you were to perform to a song that that is not ME in origin with different rhythmic patterns, your movements will change to incorporate those rhythmic patterns so that they fit IN HOW YOU CONCEPTUALIZE that movement vocabulary.

I, personally, do not think that ballroom salsa has ANYTHING to do with "real" salsa dancing, which will probably tick off ballroom dancers who spend years lovingly practicing the music and the steps.*

Now for a food analogy, cause I'm both hungry AND thinky, when I go to a restaurant that features food that I've grown up with, I'm am invariably dissapointed. Not because the people at the stove don't love the food and work at creating an authentic experience, but because if they don't know the flavors and spices that appeal to a palate that has spent a lifetime of tasting them, no matter how good their interpretation of the food is, it's not real Puerto Rican food. I don't know if this is universal, but whenever I go to an ethnic restaurant, i check to see if the people of that ethnicity eat there, because I trust that their educated palate is a reference that I will get a more authentic taste of their cuisine.

*Amira Jamal, my first belly dance teacher was teaching at a Fred Estair(sp?) studio. Our belly dance class was right after a salsa class that a Russian ballroom dancer was teaching. I was there late, helping to clear up. There was a man there, who was a bit early for his class, if I remember correctly, he was from Honduras. He was in a heated argument with the ballroom dancer about salsa. His point was that what she was teaching wasn't salsa as people who grew up with it would recognize it. He asked me my ethnicity, I told him, he asked if I wouldn't mind demonstrating with him. We started dancing, and I followed him with no difficulty. She got pretty annoyed, I think his point was that if you were teaching a dance from a certain area, you should *know* how the people of that area did it, so that they would have at least that reference point and be able to identify what you were doing WITH their dance.**

**wow, this got really long. back to lurkdom.
 

Sophia Maria

New member
Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be offensive. So, if you're offended, I'm sorry, it's not my intent. Somehow I always seem to offend people with my questions.
No offense taken. Yet. :lol: I'm completely kidding.

This question stems from having read a few different threads regarding performances. The general tone from the responses that I've read is that if you're not dancing to Middle Eastern/Arabic music, then what you're doing is not belly dance.
It's not totally black and white for me, and I think it's hard to really definitely decide and categorize everything. However, in this I'm going to use a comparison to tango, because I think bellydance and tango share some stylistic similarities. In general, the reason why I would be less likely to call something "belly dance" if it was performed to non ME music is because bellydance as it is taught is intrinsically married to the music of the culture it comes from. Belly dance is also improvised a lot of the time, and responds to the emotion of the music, spontaneously. Tango is similar because even though it is often choreographed, it is intensely emotional and responds directly to the intensely emotional nature of tango music. But the emotions, while technically the same (sadness, regret, jealousy, heartbreak) are FELT differently in the different forms of music. Would it really be tango dancing if one choreographed a dance to Oum Kalthoum? (disregard the fact that in the first place the rhythm would be all wrong). Or would something be fundamentally different? Likewise, would a belly dance really be belly dance if I danced to Carlos Gardel?
 

Dunyah

New member
HUGE philosophical question, this topic has been talked and debated endlessly. My point of view is that belly dance has cultural origins which include specific music. Yes you can use the music vocabulary to dance to anything you like, and sometimes it is really fun to do that, and even to perform that. BUT if you never dance to Egyptian or Turkish or even Armenian or North African or Lebanese or Syrian or Palestinian music, (to name a few examples) you are not belly dancing in my book.

Reasonable people can disagree, and many do think that the movement vocabulary makes a dance "belly dance." I don't. If you take the dance away from all of its connections to the cultures of origin, and especially if you start to include movements from jazz, hip hip, ballet, etc. it becomes a new and different dance form of its own, e.g. tribal fusion. Fusion is not invalid, it's just not the same as the original dance. So call it a new name.
 

Aniseteph

New member
I keep two versions of "belly dance" in my vocabulary/ understanding.

One is the big umbrella that goes from baladi to the outer reaches of experimental tribal fusion. The ME focus, and the meaning and intention and the music and pretty much everything may have gone from a lot of it, but I suppose they can claim that you can track it back to ME belly dance, even if it's unrecognisable. However much it may need a new name, people are fixated on "belly dance" and won't let go. I live with that. No one wants my PITA comments about That's Not Actually Belly Dance. So I zip it IRL. (not here, obvs ;)). If I was a teacher I'd be a bit more share-y on the subject.

The other is what belly dance is for me, and that's utterly ME focused - it's the moves and the music and the attitude and the soul, the whole package. I've gone more and more this way over the years as I learn more. (Happy days when it was all belly dance and all good to my innocent eyes... nostalgic sniff)

I can live with the fact that people perpetrate WTFusions and Shakira/ Pussycat Dolls medleys in the in the name of belly dance. Deep breath, think calming thoughts. I can see why people might tend to the poppy and familiar with beginners, or for first solos. But then they should take off the trainer wheels. I start getting p*$$£d off when I have to sit through shedloads of it in belly dance shows, or when festivals are full of novelty fusion choreographies.
 

DancingArabian

New member
Thanks everyone.

It was something I needed more explanation to understand. I kept seeing "x isn't belly dance" (here, and elsewhere. I'm a bad employee and read a lot at work), but I wouldn't see an explanation as to why someone felt that way. My brain hasn't determined what someone mixing the music and the moves should be called, though.

kina - Your post made the most sense to me personally, mostly because I'm aso Puerto Rican and have some shared experiences in your explanation. I feel vaguely guilty for being more of a merengue fan than a salsa fan ;)


I think that my belly dance style that's developing also play a part in my confusion. I don't like dancing to songs with vocals. I can't understand the words and I don't feel a translation really does a song justice. I can't understand the words, so how am I supposed to dance them?

Instrumental songs, particularly drum solos, seem to be the music that really makes me want to move. My dance outfits are moving towards Turkish, ATS and fantasy. I love individual pieces that I can dress up a ton of ways. I don't think I'll ever take to dancing in heels though.
 

Kashmir

New member
I think that my belly dance style that's developing also play a part in my confusion. I don't like dancing to songs with vocals. I can't understand the words and I don't feel a translation really does a song justice. I can't understand the words, so how am I supposed to dance them?

Instrumental songs, particularly drum solos, seem to be the music that really makes me want to move. My dance outfits are moving towards Turkish, ATS and fantasy. I love individual pieces that I can dress up a ton of ways. I don't think I'll ever take to dancing in heels though.
First up, an instrumental version of a song does have words - only they are not apparent. So dancing to such a piece of music does need to have some idea about what the words would be if they were sung. ;)

Drum solos can be fun - and very challenging. But in some ways they are belly dance light because you can only dance to teh rhythm. Part of the characteristics of belly dance is how the dancer decides to switch between rhythm, melody and lyrics. Also it gives a chance to express multi-layered dancing as the feet follow the underlying beat, the hips the drum accents, arms are following the melody and the face expresses the words (I'm not saying that is how you always do it - just an example).
 

Zumarrad

Member
I think liking drum solos best is a pretty normal early stage, especially when you are younger and have a lot of energy to burn. But don't give up on the lovely songs! Over time you will get a better feeling for them.

The BEST way for us to get our heads around those songs is to get, ideally, a live original version with audience response, plus a transliteration and translation, *plus* an artistic translation. You will start to be able to pick up the odd word that will let you know where you are in the song, and what that bit means. Sooner or later you'll be an expert in "bellydance Arabic"!
 

kina

New member
Thanks everyone.

It was something I needed more explanation to understand. I kept seeing "x isn't belly dance" (here, and elsewhere. I'm a bad employee and read a lot at work), but I wouldn't see an explanation as to why someone felt that way. My brain hasn't determined what someone mixing the music and the moves should be called, though.

kina - Your post made the most sense to me personally, mostly because I'm aso Puerto Rican and have some shared experiences in your explanation. I feel vaguely guilty for being more of a merengue fan than a salsa fan ;)


I think that my belly dance style that's developing also play a part in my confusion. I don't like dancing to songs with vocals. I can't understand the words and I don't feel a translation really does a song justice. I can't understand the words, so how am I supposed to dance them?

Instrumental songs, particularly drum solos, seem to be the music that really makes me want to move. My dance outfits are moving towards Turkish, ATS and fantasy. I love individual pieces that I can dress up a ton of ways. I don't think I'll ever take to dancing in heels though.

It's ok, I wouldn't admit to anyone I know that I marched in the Dominican Parade but not in the Puerto Rican. shhhhh don't tel anyone.

So, do you know the song En Mi Viejo San Juan? If you, like most other Puerto Rican's who have migrated, know the song and it brings you to tears, whether or not the words are there.

That's what it's like for someone who know Enta Omri inside and out, you can hear the words in your head where they would be sung. It's very evocative.

This is why you see so many people asking for lyric translations, and people are willing to pay for them, because if you understand the words behind the songs, the song takes on a whole other dimension.

And so does your dancing.
 

DancingArabian

New member
First up, an instrumental version of a song does have words - only they are not apparent. So dancing to such a piece of music does need to have some idea about what the words would be if they were sung. ;)

Drum solos can be fun - and very challenging. But in some ways they are belly dance light because you can only dance to teh rhythm. Part of the characteristics of belly dance is how the dancer decides to switch between rhythm, melody and lyrics. Also it gives a chance to express multi-layered dancing as the feet follow the underlying beat, the hips the drum accents, arms are following the melody and the face expresses the words (I'm not saying that is how you always do it - just an example).
I believe I misspoke (mistyped?). I didn't mean a version of a song that normally has words but this one doesn't. I meant the songs used for drum solos, except I'm not sure what they're properly called since they don't necessarily have only drums to them. Come to think of it, it's entirely possible that they do have a version with words.

Tangent: Do the songs that are instruments only have a proper name? What about the songs used for drum solos?


I think liking drum solos best is a pretty normal early stage, especially when you are younger and have a lot of energy to burn. But don't give up on the lovely songs! Over time you will get a better feeling for them.

The BEST way for us to get our heads around those songs is to get, ideally, a live original version with audience response, plus a transliteration and translation, *plus* an artistic translation. You will start to be able to pick up the odd word that will let you know where you are in the song, and what that bit means. Sooner or later you'll be an expert in "bellydance Arabic"!
I'm definitely not among the younger age group of dancers :)

It's hard to explain and I think I'm doing a poor job of it. Something about all the layers of different instruments and beats - that's what really makes me want to get up and move. Always has - even before I actually started to learn belly dancing.

That's great advice for the songs though. I didn't realize that you could pay someone to translate if you couldn't find it online. I don't know why I didn't think of that! I won't say I've given up on it, but I think it's just on the shelf for now, for me to pick up later when I have a better dancing vocabulary.


It's ok, I wouldn't admit to anyone I know that I marched in the Dominican Parade but not in the Puerto Rican. shhhhh don't tel anyone.

So, do you know the song En Mi Viejo San Juan? If you, like most other Puerto Rican's who have migrated, know the song and it brings you to tears, whether or not the words are there.

That's what it's like for someone who know Enta Omri inside and out, you can hear the words in your head where they would be sung. It's very evocative.

This is why you see so many people asking for lyric translations, and people are willing to pay for them, because if you understand the words behind the songs, the song takes on a whole other dimension.

And so does your dancing.

Hahaha! I won't tell!

That's an excellent comparison.

It's all making more sense now. I'm really glad I got a little brave and started this thread
 

Zumarrad

Member
I meant the songs used for drum solos, except I'm not sure what they're properly called since they don't necessarily have only drums to them. Come to think of it, it's entirely possible that they do have a version with words.
Yup, they probably do.

Entrance songs are not sung. They are called megance or entrance.

A drum solo is by definition a solo performed by a drummer. And is improvised to a greater or lesser degree. It's a taqsim, technically, I guess. But there are drummers who have definitely "written" pieces for themselves that are complex drum show-off pieces.

If the drum solo music you are talking about has instruments that are not drums, it's probably not a drum solo. Or it might be a piece of music that has a short drum solo section in it. Can you provide some examples? A lot of more contemporary oriental dance music is a lot drummier than it used to be.
 

DancingArabian

New member
Here's some examples. It's a teeny list of the songs I listen to. This is the kind of music that I love having on when I drive and do just about anything, in addition to dancing. I'm not sure why, but it makes the tasks more enjoyable.

My favorite CD:
Drum Attack - Bellydance Drum Solos by Tony Chamoun
You can listen to samples of the songs on Amazon. #1, Shadia is my favorite on this CD
Amazon.com: Drum Attack -Bellydance Drum Solos: Tony Chamoun: MP3 Downloads

Another popular CD on my playlists:
On Fire!-the Hottest Bellydance CD Ever
You can listen to samples on Amazon. #9, Cycle of Life, is a particular favorite on this CD
I did not add in the "Hottest" part, that's part of the cd title!
Amazon.com: On Fire!-the Hottest Bellydance CD Ever: On Fire!-the Hottest Bellydance CD Ever: Music

Daret Al Ayam:
I had this song by itself, it was just a random song I purchased on Amazon, but here it is being performed.
Amelia - Daret el Ayam / Oriental dance / Bellydance - YouTube
 
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Kashmir

New member
I believe I misspoke (mistyped?). I didn't mean a version of a song that normally has words but this one doesn't. I meant the songs used for drum solos, except I'm not sure what they're properly called since they don't necessarily have only drums to them. Come to think of it, it's entirely possible that they do have a version with words.

Tangent: Do the songs that are instruments only have a proper name? What about the songs used for drum solos?
Okay - but if you don't recognize the music how can you know if it normally has words or not?

A drum solo only has drums. No melody at all. It is a special taqsim (fadi I think - "empty"). It is traditionally improvised and belly dance ones come from the interaction between dancer and drummer - ie drummer adjusts/plays with dancer and vice versa.

A solo instrument improvisation is a "taqsim". Sometimes it may have drum or other percussion with it - but more commonly not.
 

Zumarrad

Member
I haven't listened to the samples but I can tell you that Daret al Ayam is a song.... a delicious beautiful song that was made famous by Oum Khalsoum, with beautiful words and several gorgeous sections. Ohhhh Daret al Ayam! Swooooon!

Over the years those songs, which were popular at the time of their release, have become standards that Arabic bands play and that dancers dance to. There are all kinds of versions out there.

Here is a post that has a transliteration plus translation of the lyrics:

http://www.allthelyrics.com/forum/arabic-lyrics-translation/38448-oum-kalthoumthe-goddess.html#post356901

A fuller more artistic one here:
http://www.arabicmusictranslation.com/2009/06/oum-kalsoun-days-went-by-wa-daret-el.html
 
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tigerb

New member
Don't want to threadjack too much, but I have to say it makes me sad in my local community that so few people seem to want to perform to ME music the last couple of years. Outside of the "big" stage show that happens every year and the local hookah bar, if you want to see dancing to actual ME music you have to go to an ethnic festival. The haflas are full of pop music and Beats Antique... when someone does dance to a lovely classic these days, my interest in their performance is captured immediately!
 
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