Hello!

Cobra Hips

New member
Hello from the Northeast! I've been bellydancing on and off for the last several years and am getting back into it! Glad to have found this forum!
 

Cobra Hips

New member
Welcome Cobra Hips! I'm a fan of belly dancing myself. I have tried teaching myself from watching instructional videos.
Thank you, Prince Ali Baba! I also have learned a lot from instructional videos. I took some classes with two different teachers a few years back as well that were so much fun. I really slacked off, but I want to get back into dancing and tone up!
 

Cobra Hips

New member
Welcome! Do you have a favorite style?
It's kinda hard for me to say. I think I prefer cabaret style and costuming, though I do admire improvising which seems to be more of a tribal thing, but please correct me if I'm wrong about that! I just want to enjoy what I'm doing! :)
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
It's kinda hard for me to say. I think I prefer cabaret style and costuming, though I do admire improvising which seems to be more of a tribal thing, but please correct me if I'm wrong about that! I just want to enjoy what I'm doing! :)
Am Cab was my preferred style for the 40 years I was directly involved in belly dance and the only time I didn't do improvisation was when I choreographed group dances for my students to do together. My memory was never good enough to memorize choreographies and besides- the music said different things to me at different times and how could I move the planned way when my body was telling me to move another? :unsure:🙂
 

Tourbeau

Active member
It's kinda hard for me to say. I think I prefer cabaret style and costuming, though I do admire improvising which seems to be more of a tribal thing, but please correct me if I'm wrong about that! I just want to enjoy what I'm doing!
If you're dancing as a hobby or for creative satisfaction, please don't waste your time dancing to music you don't like in a way you don't enjoy!

Basically, I think of improvising as three approaches.

1. Classic "winging it"
Back in the day when dancers worked in clubs to live music, they couldn't plan too far ahead because ME music expects a certain amount of improvising, and even today, dancers working to live contemporary ME music are expected to be able to keep up when the musicians start doing their thing.

When you're not 100% sure where your music is going to go, you can't plan to nail down every note of a choreography, so you ground the spontaneity of your dancing in an understanding of where the music might go and trust your instincts. This requires a lot of ear training, and hopefully rehearsal time with the band (which often evolves into #2). Most dancers don't have access to live music today, but the ones who do continue to improvise. Occasionally, you might see a situation where a dancer gets "surprised" with potentially unfamiliar prerecorded music to improvise to as a skill challenge in class or a competition.

2. Skeleton improv
This is where a dancer has enough familiarity with the music to create an outline, but doesn't expect to formally choreograph everything. "Travel around the stage here, hit some accents for this part, do some hip drops there..." This is a standard approach for somewhat unpredictable performing situations, like restaurants, parties, and outdoor gigs, where the audience or environment may disrupt your best laid plans. It is also a bridging technique for students who want to stop relying so much on extensively pre-rehearsed choreographies and build their improv skills, and for more experienced dancers who like dynamic flexibility on stage.

3. Modular improv
This is the mainstay of ATS. Dancers memorize combinations or movement chunks and put them together on the fly by following a leader's cues. For a while, Ava Fleming was trying to get a modularized improv style going for the ME traditionalist/cabaret side called "tribaret," but I don't think it generated the kind of widespread interest ATS did.

The art of improv has surely seen better days. Choreography to recordings has largely replaced dancing in the moment to live music. Even many forms of tribal/progressive/fusion BD that trace back to the ATS tradition have shifted toward doing choreographies or memorizing the sequence of combos.

Not that creating a choreography and being able to successfully implement a routine in front of an audience in a meaningful, emotional way aren't valuable skills (they are), but mastering enough technique and musicality that you can confidently and spontaneously make art in front of people is a different set of skills (sort of like how being a comedy writer, an actor who is good at comedic acting, and a stand-up comedian are slightly different flavors of the same overall achievement of being funny).

Choosing to improvise comes down to the ability, temperament, and performing goals of the dancer. Group improvisation almost always requires some sort of framework and a lot of rehearsal to be successful, but if you are a soloist, you can pretty much improvise in any style to your heart's content...to alternative Western music or classical ME masterpieces or ME folkloric music or whatever cacophonous delights Islam Chipsy will be teasing out of his keyboard when the COVID restrictions lift in Egypt.
 

Cobra Hips

New member
Am Cab was my preferred style for the 40 years I was directly involved in belly dance and the only time I didn't do improvisation was when I choreographed group dances for my students to do together. My memory was never good enough to memorize choreographies and besides- the music said different things to me at different times and how could I move the planned way when my body was telling me to move another? :unsure:🙂
LOL, my memory is sometimes not that good either. I do love just doing whatever movements come to mind.
 

Cobra Hips

New member
If you're dancing as a hobby or for creative satisfaction, please don't waste your time dancing to music you don't like in a way you don't enjoy!

Basically, I think of improvising as three approaches.

1. Classic "winging it"
Back in the day when dancers worked in clubs to live music, they couldn't plan too far ahead because ME music expects a certain amount of improvising, and even today, dancers working to live contemporary ME music are expected to be able to keep up when the musicians start doing their thing.

When you're not 100% sure where your music is going to go, you can't plan to nail down every note of a choreography, so you ground the spontaneity of your dancing in an understanding of where the music might go and trust your instincts. This requires a lot of ear training, and hopefully rehearsal time with the band (which often evolves into #2). Most dancers don't have access to live music today, but the ones who do continue to improvise. Occasionally, you might see a situation where a dancer gets "surprised" with potentially unfamiliar prerecorded music to improvise to as a skill challenge in class or a competition.

2. Skeleton improv
This is where a dancer has enough familiarity with the music to create an outline, but doesn't expect to formally choreograph everything. "Travel around the stage here, hit some accents for this part, do some hip drops there..." This is a standard approach for somewhat unpredictable performing situations, like restaurants, parties, and outdoor gigs, where the audience or environment may disrupt your best laid plans. It is also a bridging technique for students who want to stop relying so much on extensively pre-rehearsed choreographies and build their improv skills, and for more experienced dancers who like dynamic flexibility on stage.

3. Modular improv
This is the mainstay of ATS. Dancers memorize combinations or movement chunks and put them together on the fly by following a leader's cues. For a while, Ava Fleming was trying to get a modularized improv style going for the ME traditionalist/cabaret side called "tribaret," but I don't think it generated the kind of widespread interest ATS did.

The art of improv has surely seen better days. Choreography to recordings has largely replaced dancing in the moment to live music. Even many forms of tribal/progressive/fusion BD that trace back to the ATS tradition have shifted toward doing choreographies or memorizing the sequence of combos.

Not that creating a choreography and being able to successfully implement a routine in front of an audience in a meaningful, emotional way aren't valuable skills (they are), but mastering enough technique and musicality that you can confidently and spontaneously make art in front of people is a different set of skills (sort of like how being a comedy writer, an actor who is good at comedic acting, and a stand-up comedian are slightly different flavors of the same overall achievement of being funny).

Choosing to improvise comes down to the ability, temperament, and performing goals of the dancer. Group improvisation almost always requires some sort of framework and a lot of rehearsal to be successful, but if you are a soloist, you can pretty much improvise in any style to your heart's content...to alternative Western music or classical ME masterpieces or ME folkloric music or whatever cacophonous delights Islam Chipsy will be teasing out of his keyboard when the COVID restrictions lift in Egypt.
Thank you for your detailed response! I don't think I will ever go pro, so I just do what feels good. :)

Also, do you happen to know what music was traditionally used with cabaret style?
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
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Cobra Hips

New member
Though I used more modern music in my last years of dance, I am old and I love what used to be called Amerabian: Geoge Abdo, Eddie Kochak, all them old guys. ;) Also classical stuff from old Egyptian movies.

Eddie Kochak 2006

Miserlou

Raks Leyla, George Abdo

Raks Al-Kheeyam

Ya waheshni, Muharem Fuad

Miserlou Lebanese 1948 (fun stuff)

More Miserlou, Cumbus Cemaat (wish I'd heard this version when I was dancing)

Misirlou Honoka and Azita REALLY wish I'd heard this one
Oh, awesome! Thanks for all the links! :)
 

Tourbeau

Active member
💥Brace for word avalanche!💥

Also, do you happen to know what music was traditionally used with cabaret style?
I'm going to go in a slightly different direction and say there's not really one answer to this question because the who, where, and when represent a wide range of possible authentic cabaret performing styles. A dancer doing some form of traditional ME dancing to some type of culturally recognizable ME music in a costume audiences associate with that kind of dancing has a tremendous amount of leeway to recreate a moment in the past or work in a contemporary style.

Cabaret belly dance performances usually draw from three categories of music: ME classics/standards/oldies (each ME subculture defines their own, some favorites are shared among multiple groups, and some of these songs can also be classified as "folkloric"), popular ME current music (ditto), and compositions made specifically for belly dancing (which could be instrumental reworkings of music from the other two categories, or original works that, depending on their production, may sound relatively timeless or tied to a specific era).

It's almost easier to generate a list of what NOT to perform cabaret style to: music that has nothing to do with the Middle East or belly dancing (that's for fusion), religious music (okay, maybe some Christmas stuff from Fairuz or the Brothers of the Baladi at holiday parties if you're confident no one will be offended), social-protest/political/nationalistic music (almost impossible to pull off without upsetting someone), and crude songs (younger audiences in hookah lounges may enjoy a dancer using a song with vulgar lyrics, especially if it's popular mahraganat, but otherwise, don't. If you're not deeply immersed in the culture, you're probably not entirely in on the joke, and the optics are problematic when most people don't respect belly dancing very much to begin with).

I know this isn't very specific, but the suggestions for someone looking to recapture the vibe of the old "North Beach Memories" column in the Gilded Serpent isn't the same as for someone who wants to model a performance after whatever Johara would be doing in Egypt if the world wasn't half shut down.

A number of dancers have compiled essential song lists (search "songs every belly dancer should know"), and you can also google the most popular songs by specific ME artists. The internet is full of videos, music files, and streaming options (free and subscription).

Personally, I think one of the most important things you can do as a dancer is make a habit of finding your own music. Exploring a wide variety of ME music is part of the answer to all of those questions about improving musicality, recognizing folkloric musical cues, building improvisation skills, learning cultural history, and finding your own individual dance style.

How else can you learn what you like if you don't experience what's out there? And if you're not sure what you've found, people are always around to help.
 
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