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  1. #1
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Default Beyond knowing the lyrics.

    OK, knowing the lyrics or at least the gist of it is important. You are going to look like an idiot or worse skipping about merrily to something tragic or choosing it for a wedding. I have read this many times over the years and been to workshops where they've said how important it is. And I have shut up and listened like a good student.

    I once went to a workshop by Caroline Afifi who used to post here in the olden days, and she said something very interesting, the gist of which (apologies if I got it wrong but this was my take home message) was that it's more complicated than that. You are the belly dancer; it's about sharing the enjoyment of the music with the audience, not play acting the lyrics.

    I've been having a wander round YouTube this morning and found a perfect example. Sad song, smiley Lucy getting it sooo right.



    I would much rather see a dancer doing "I am having a great time dancing to this for you" than trying to act out the song. (Hmmmm, maybe that is a key difference between theatrical styles and traditional belly dance, you aren't the belly dancer in the same way when you're deliberately playing a part... ).

    How far do you go along with the lyrics? Have you seen examples where it's gone wrong, and why?

  2. #2
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    I'm not big on combining lyrical dance with belly dance, believing as I do that belly dance should be an emotional response to music as opposed to an emotional response to poetry. That is not to say one should ignore the implications of the lyrics to the point of absurdity (don't want to end up dancing to an Islamic call to prayer, for example).
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  3. #3
    Moderator Daimona's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aniseteph View Post
    I would much rather see a dancer doing "I am having a great time dancing to this for you" than trying to act out the song. (Hmmmm, maybe that is a key difference between theatrical styles and traditional belly dance, you aren't the belly dancer in the same way when you're deliberately playing a part... ).

    There are degrees of "acting out" the lyrics, from just keeping the feeling of the lyrics and music (such as Lucy is doing by choice of movements in the video above) to theatre and pantomime.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aniseteph View Post
    How far do you go along with the lyrics? Have you seen examples where it's gone wrong, and why?
    Usually, I don't act it out. I look up the lyrics before performing in public anyway (to be sure I avoid bloopers as well as avoid dancing to songs with heavy political and/or religious lyrics) and prefer to just nod to the lyrics now and then, maybe to words such as eyes, heart, head, tears, you and me, etc. Knowing the lyrics will let me be able to choose when to refer to them or not. Occasionally I've been sitting on the theatre branch, but labelled it theatrical dance rather than belly dance.

    Gone wrong or done right, I believe, is a matter of personal taste. Many years ago, one of the big Egyptian names (I've forgotten who) seemed to have a fad on putting on the drama, such as doing at "cutting throat" movement in her choreographies. Not my taste of move, but probably right for some. One of my Egyptian friends dance a lot to the lyrics and sometimes even singing along, but it isn't acting.

    Being in the audience I usually remember the feelings I get from watching the various dancers, and the "I am having a great time dancing this for you" usually wins over "This music is about suffering, so I'm suffering as hard as I can" or "This is just a routine, don't you think I'm a great dancer?" Dancers showing this joy while dancing, even when the song is sad or filled with melancholy (yes, it is possible to do both in one song), usually wins over the technically perfect dancers with complicated choreographies leaving me with no emotions.

    (ok, sorry for the long post.. I'm rambling on now – I hope it makes sense in some way)
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    Daim.

  4. #4
    Member Shems's Avatar
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    I actually like both.

    Rewatching this clip of Lucy, thinking about what you said, made me look a little closer.

    She isn't acting out the lyrics, but they are clearly going through her head, you can even see her mouth "kan zaman" as the piece draws to its close. I noticed her energy change in her body and facial expressions when the lyrics begin, and when they become their most poignant, she sort of draws the energy inward, looks down, softens her smile. Most of the parts where she smiles the largest are the parts without lyrics, or the parts where the lyrics meaning becomes a little brighter.

    The interpretation by Lucy of Lessa Fakir that you shared here is one of my all time favorites. That being said, I think Dina was the dancer that really popularized more of the acting out the lyrics approach, and I love it on her. She does occasionally mime the lyrics, but not that much, but you can definitely see her face feeling its way through the story of the lyrics as she dances. Here is a recording of Dina dancing to Lessa Fakir:

    Last edited by Shems; 05-08-2016 at 11:00 PM.

  5. #5
    Member Shems's Avatar
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    On most all my favorite Egyptian dancers, they really shift energy going into the lyric in Lessa Faker. Maybe it is the relative subtlety, or just the authenticity of feeling that makes each approach feel so right. I think the problem you run into with some of the dancers that mime the lyrics too much as they sing along is that it can seem pasted on, like they understand what the words mean, but they aren't really feeling the meaning of the words. They haven't developed a relationship with the story and significance of the song.

    Two of my all time favorite performances of Lessa Faker:

    Souhair Zaki


    & Fifi Abdou
    Last edited by Shems; 05-10-2016 at 12:43 AM.

  6. #6
    Member Shems's Avatar
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    Here's another great interpretation. Zizi Mustafa actually gets a little more mimey than Dina here. I love how earthy she is!


  7. #7
    Member Shems's Avatar
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    Since I've only shared Egyptians, I thought I'd share one of my favorite interpretations by an American dancer. Shahrzad really gets into the emotion of the piece, mimics only a bit and I think dances the heck out of it. I love her interpretation, it is so intricate & musically nuanced, while still being so feeling. The whole clip is great, but Lessa Faker starts about 4:25 in if you want to skip straight to that.

    Last edited by Shems; 05-09-2016 at 12:03 PM.

  8. #8
    Member Shems's Avatar
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    So, I'm going to share one more clip then go. I figured I might as well share one of me. This is one of my favorite songs ever, and I thought this performance was a pretty good one for me. I'm not as smiley as Lucy, but not as angsty as Dina either, I mime only once or twice and only occasionally sang the words for a bit, but I like my approach here, because I know it is a really authentic response to this song for me. I think there are a lot of really good ways to come at a piece like this, so long as you find the realness in it. My Lessa Fakir starts 5 minutes into this clip if you want to skip straight there:


  9. #9
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Thank you Shems for so many lovely clips! I really enjoyed watching them, and all so different.

    When I got to the Zizi Mustafa one it hit me that a singer makes a big difference. Not interpreting the lyrics on some level while they are singing them is kind of ignoring the singer, if that makes sense. There they are pouring their heart out and the dancer is doing her own thing? It doesn't sit right. Without a singer there's more freedom.

    To me, Fifi isn't doing a lot of lyric interpretation (any?) but who cares. I love how she's on that massive stage and yet focuses everything down to her hips, and how effectively the music and arrangement work with it. Nice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daimona
    Being in the audience I usually remember the feelings I get from watching the various dancers, and the "I am having a great time dancing this for you" usually wins over "This music is about suffering, so I'm suffering as hard as I can" or "This is just a routine, don't you think I'm a great dancer?" Dancers showing this joy while dancing, even when the song is sad or filled with melancholy (yes, it is possible to do both in one song), usually wins over the technically perfect dancers with complicated choreographies leaving me with no emotions.


    Agreed. Real emotions gets it every time, it's like a spark. And as Shanazel said, it's about a response to the music (although not ignoring its cultural associations). I think you are right about getting it wrong being matter of taste, although lip synching the lot flawlessly while full on emoting would look silly IMO. I don't have a problem with a bit of singing along if it's not intrusive.

    Watching the clips made me smile, and dancing to this would make me smile, can't help it, especially the bit where the tempo sort of kicks in.

    (Gaaah, tablet battery about to go... POST!!!!)

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