Difficult Songs

Miss Mar

New member
What songs, styles, rhythms do you find difficult to dance to? What makes it tricky for you?
I'm having a hard time getting into Bint al-Balad for a routine I am learning. It doesn't speak to me at this point, but maybe it will grow on me.
 

Tourbeau

Member
I hope someone else will have some input for you, because I'm a bit of an outlier. My least favorite style of music is actually stuff produced specifically for belly dancing, particularly those records of instrumentals by orchestras of studio musicians. I can do the older club music (Eddie Kochak, George Abdo, Mohammed el Bakkar, etc.), but those CDs they were cranking out back in the day with the stock-photo dancers on the covers are generally a nope for me. It's bland and pretty, but it's like flat soda pop. No fizz.

Otherwise, I like mahraganat fine for hopping around, but I think it can be difficult to build a good performance on because it doesn't tend to do enough interesting things like big accents or sections that vary in tempo/style. There are specific musicians I don't particularly care for. Some of the less common rhythms can be challenging to dance to, especially the odd Turkish time signatures and some of the more complex polyrhythmic Khaleeji stuff. But this doesn't address your current problem...

First, we need to establish where your difficulty lies. What do you mean that you're "having a hard time getting into" this piece? You don't like the sound of the music? You don't think the choreography fits well with the music? You've never enjoyed doing this particular style? It's just something you wouldn't choose for yourself?

Without knowing which of the multiple songs with this title we're talking about, it's a wild guess trying to help further. If you haven't developed an ear for a particular substyle of ME music, that's a different problem than if you're saying "I really dislike the sound of Fatme Serhan's voice" or "I think I might have the wrong teacher because we just aren't on the same wavelength choreography wise." Part of the challenge of mastering a performing art is learning how to connect to pieces that don't instinctively resonate with 100% sincere, inspired energy. In other words, is the problem inexperience or a conflict of style/taste?

And, honestly, sometimes the reason a dancer can't connect to the material is because the material isn't that good. I don't know your circumstances and it wouldn't be fair to evaluate someone else's art sight unseen, but without launching a criticism of anyone in particular, yeah, there are boring, ugly songs and dumb, awkward choreographies out there.

I've also taken classes where I've walked away thinking the teacher was a wonderfully charismatic dancer with incredible technique, but I still didn't want to dance like them (didn't agree with their taste in music, didn't "hear" the music the same way they did, didn't feel natural doing those sequences of moves that way) without trying to imply they were somehow doing anything "wrong." It was plenty "right," but just different from what I wanted. Sometimes your muse and their muse don't travel in the same direction...and sometimes if a student hasn't been exposed enough to a style that seems unfamiliar, it takes a while to appreciate it.

Well, that's a lot of philosophical rambling...
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
Interesting question. There certainly is music I don't care for (most anything by Hakim comes to mind), but sometimes even if I like the song, I have problems dancing meaningfully to it. Truth is, I understand and relate to Greek music FAR better than middle eastern - but I'm getting better...
 

Daimona

Moderator
Many good points from Tourbeau here.

I've struggled most with music that didn't apply to the style(s) I'm used to (such as in fusion numbers) when I had to make group choreographies to the music. Otherwise I struggle with flat pop tunes in general as I'm very fond of musical layers and complexity. New (to me) genres might have been challenging in the beginning, but learning to know the various genres better usually also help me enjoy the music.

Making interesting choreographies when the music isn't interesting is a PITA. Luckily, when making things for myself I don't have to use music that don't speak to me.

In classes, even if I don't plan to dance as the teacher or don't like the choreography itself, I've usually stayed to learn different ways of interpreting the music and expand my dance horizons and grow as a dancer.
 

Zeph

New member
I have been only three years in belly dance now so I’m still a beginner! But I find fan veils very boring (not difficult but boring. Dance wise I feel drum solo is hard for me rn.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
"Sometimes your muse and their muse don't travel in the same direction...and sometimes if a student hasn't been exposed enough to a style that seems unfamiliar, it takes a while to appreciate it. "

This. It can also take a while to appreciate and adjust one's ear to an unfamiliar type of music, whether it is Om Kalthoum or New Orleans jazz. First time I heard Juliana's Belly Dance Music for the Connoisseur (boy, did I just date myself), I was appalled by what I perceived as dissonance and screaming woodwinds. Took me a while to figure out what was going on, and while this album of Turkish music was never a favorite, I did learn to understand and appreciate it for what it was.

Sometimes choreography falls flat despite putting in a pile of work on it. When I was teaching, I came up with what I thought was a delightful idea. Students liked the idea, we all loved the music, and the dance went absolutely nowhere. After a couple of classes, I announced, "I hate this. We're trashing it." Sigh of relief from several students. It just didn't work.
 

Tourbeau

Member
Zeph: "But I find fan veils very boring (not difficult but boring."

[Caution: long, opinionated rambling ahead...]

I think there is an underlying problem that many dancers struggle with what to do with slow music, which is why there are a lot of weak veil and fan performances. If you can't figures out how to move in an engaging way to a slow song, adding fabric does not fix the problem. It just means you subcontract a good chunk of your performance to an inanimate object's dancing, while you, depending on your choreography, imitate a Wacky Waving Inflatable Tube Man or a Slab of Seasoned Lamb on a Gyro Rotisserie. A performance that consists of four minutes of standing and flapping, punctuated by long turn sequences is almost always boring.

Rule #1 of Veil Dancing: Film yourself dancing your choreography without your fabric prop (AKA "air veil"). If you still have a viable performance, carry on. If you realize you don't have enough meaningful dancing in your dance, revise.

I don't mean to belittle how much harder it can be to dance to slow music than fast music. Your performing skills have to be better, because sloppy technique and psychological shortcomings like stage fright and lack of confidence are more prominent. Manifesting sadness or longing feels more vulnerable than the emotions typical of most up-tempo songs, where you are already investing much of your energy in the physical aspect of the performance anyway. I think this is partially why insufficiently experienced dancers are tempted to put yards of fabric between themselves and the audience.

Slow music is just more challenging. I often struggle with the feeling that I'm not doing a slow song justice myself. I don't understand why so many beginners want to start their solo performing careers with a fabric dance. The music takes more skills to interpret well and you're adding a prop! Give yourself the easy win! Pick a peppy song and bop around while the audience enthusiastically cheers you on!

Having said all of that, I personally prefer traditional veil or wings over fan veils. When wings started to become popular (15-20 years ago), they were often used in fantasy pharaonic pieces, before becoming a mainstream alternative to the half-circle veil. I think that initial connection meant wings evolved with more of a traditional technique base. Fan veils weren't well grounded in fusion with the Far Eastern dances where they originated. They just sort of barged onto the BD scene at a time when lots of dancers were competing to have the next hot thing on the teaching circuit as a cheap, novel prop, and I think it explains why the depth of artistry with fan veils can feel shallow.

Zeph: "Dance wise I feel drum solo is hard for me"

I was fortunate to spend some time working with a native teacher who explained that Middle Easterners tend to see drum solos as songs (that just don't happen to have melodies), whereas foreign dancers often view them as opportunities to demonstrate their isolation skills. The idea that you should approach a drum solo as a song and not a puzzle to figure out if you should do four or eight hip drops at a time changes the whole approach.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
Zeph: "But I find fan veils very boring (not difficult but boring."

[Caution: long, opinionated rambling ahead...]

I think there is an underlying problem that many dancers struggle with what to do with slow music, which is why there are a lot of weak veil and fan performances. If you can't figures out how to move in an engaging way to a slow song, adding fabric does not fix the problem. It just means you subcontract a good chunk of your performance to an inanimate object's dancing, while you, depending on your choreography, imitate a Wacky Waving Inflatable Tube Man or a Slab of Seasoned Lamb on a Gyro Rotisserie. A performance that consists of four minutes of standing and flapping, punctuated by long turn sequences is almost always boring.

Rule #1 of Veil Dancing: Film yourself dancing your choreography without your fabric prop (AKA "air veil"). If you still have a viable performance, carry on.
I agree with this 100%. And to me, fan veils are just mostly distracting from the dance, period. Not my favorite, to say the least. I have always found drum solos to be very easy, but you are point on in that slower songs are harder, partly because you can't "rush" or "fake" it - everything you do is seen more.

If you realize you don't have enough meaningful dancing in your dance, revise.

I don't mean to belittle how much harder it can be to dance to slow music than fast music. Your performing skills have to be better, because sloppy technique and psychological shortcomings like stage fright and lack of confidence are more prominent. Manifesting sadness or longing feels more vulnerable than the emotions typical of most up-tempo songs, where you are already investing much of your energy in the physical aspect of the performance anyway. I think this is partially why insufficiently experienced dancers are tempted to put yards of fabric between themselves and the audience.

Slow music is just more challenging. I often struggle with the feeling that I'm not doing a slow song justice myself. I don't understand why so many beginners want to start their solo performing careers with a fabric dance. The music takes more skills to interpret well and you're adding a prop! Give yourself the easy win! Pick a peppy song and bop around while the audience enthusiastically cheers you on!

Having said all of that, I personally prefer traditional veil or wings over fan veils. When wings started to become popular (15-20 years ago), they were often used in fantasy pharaonic pieces, before becoming a mainstream alternative to the half-circle veil. I think that initial connection meant wings evolved with more of a traditional technique base. Fan veils weren't well grounded in fusion with the Far Eastern dances where they originated. They just sort of barged onto the BD scene at a time when lots of dancers were competing to have the next hot thing on the teaching circuit as a cheap, novel prop, and I think it explains why the depth of artistry with fan veils can feel shallow.

Zeph: "Dance wise I feel drum solo is hard for me"

I was fortunate to spend some time working with a native teacher who explained that Middle Easterners tend to see drum solos as songs (that just don't happen to have melodies), whereas foreign dancers often view them as opportunities to demonstrate their isolation skills. The idea that you should approach a drum solo as a song and not a puzzle to figure out if you should do four or eight hip drops at a time changes the whole approach.
 
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