Teaching Egyptian through non-Egyptian methods...!

Eshta

New member
Hi folks, your thoughts please!

I have been teaching some university students for the last term, and for the next term they want a choreography they can perform at their dance society's end of term show.

My students scare me with their ability to pick up technique, but I don't feel their overwhelming enthusiasm when I try to educate them as to the 'philosophy' of Egyptian dance. I can't blame them, they are pretty young 18 - 21 year olds whose concept of belly dance has come from Shakira, so my deft ramblings about musical interpretation,artistic integrity and emotional interpretation after 2-3 months of classes might be a bit much for them. But I would rather NOTteach than pander to the commercialised "shaking your booty like a belly dancer" school of belly dance teaching.

In choosing the song to use for their choreography, I am contemplating Natacha Atlas's "I put a spell on you" in order to demonstrate to them the concepts I have been trying to articulate. I know it seems the most unlikely of songs to demonstrate this, but I think they will be able to relate for the following:

- the lyrics are in English, so they can relate
- Related to the above, the ability to understand means they can relate to the emotional leve of the song
- the 'essence' of the song is similar in the western version and the Natacha Atlas version
- Good opportunity to explain the impact of rhythm (the heavy Saidi rhythm is a critical transformer of the song from West to East)
- That said, the rhythm is constant, so they won't be overwhelmed by the number of changes in rhythm
- Selfishly, I have a weakness for this song and would be able to stomach 10 weeks of repitition of hearing this song :)

Quite broad a question, but do you think it is possible to teach them something about the more subtle elements of Egyptian style by using a non-authentic example that they can relate to (as opposed to an authentic version they would struggle to identify with)? Do you think I'm worrying too much too soon - I'm paranoid because it was very late in my dance education that I learnt about the more subtle elements of Egyptian style belly dance but then perhaps you need the building blocks before you can 'branch out' into distinctive 'styles'?

Finally, do you have any ideas for my choreography?! If I'm not boo'd off the figurative forum stage for my choice in music, I'm a very 'selfish' choreographer in that I can choreograph for myself but struggle to empathise for my poor students :) Any ideas would be welcome!
 

Aniseteph

New member
I'd say it's a very good choice and not unlikely at all, but I am biased as it's one of the songs my teacher uses for a beginner choreography. :D

YouTube - I put a spell on you - belly dancing

I wouldn't worry about whether they get the cultural subtleties of Egyptian dance. You can only tell people and teach with integrity; it's up to them whether they take it on board or ignore it and want to be Shakira. And a choreo to this is not going to be pandering to the booty shaking thing.

Yup, I think you need the basics before you appreciate the subtleties, so IMO a choreo that practices the technique they have been learning and fits it to what the music is doing is a great start.

I am soooo biased.... :rolleyes:
 

Maria_Aya

New member
a) Happy New Year !!!
b) i'm in a crazy run, but poped as i'm crazy for egyptian style that i trully and heartly believe that the selection of this song is wrong for ANY Egyptian style, at any level, and wrong for someone to introduce egyptian to new dancers.
(other than this its a lovely song)

kisses

p.s. i'll come back with more
 

shiradotnet

New member
Hi Eshta! I don't think it's realistic to expect students who have been studying this dance only a few months to discover/appreciate subtleties such as emotional connection to the music. I've been belly dancing since 1981, and I have seen a pattern repeat itself many, many times in which novice dancers BEGIN by thinking of belly dancing as a collection of moves, a physical technique. It's not a question of using music people relate to, it's a question of teaching them that there's more to dance in general than physically manipulating your body into different positions.

I think it would be better to choose a Middle Eastern song that has a message your students can universally relate to, and teach them to relate to that song. For example, you could pick Harramt Ahebbak or Sabri Aleel, which have the universally appealing theme of "Get out of my life, you worthless man," and then encourage them to imagine themselves as actresses expressing that emotion as they perform your choreography.

The notions of musical interpretation and artistic integrity should come from you and the choreography you teach them. That leaves emotional expression. So long as you choose a song that has a message your students can relate to, they should be able to interpret it with your guidance.

I think part of the point of learning belly dance is to learn the musical repertoire that goes with it.
 
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jenc

New member
"for what it's worth my Egyptian teacher uses egyptian pop which no one seems to have any problems relating to. I'm afraid I don't know many of the names of things we use.

i think that there is more that isn't egyptian about that piece than there is - but then we also dance to "Bellydancer" so I can't say much!!

I think that the structure and other rhthmns in that song say to me "Tribal Fusion". I think that you hear the Saidi rythmn as dominant because you recognise it. For those who don't I think the fusion aspects will dominate and mask any egyptian flavour.

By the way I was very pleased to meet you too at Saqarah. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and would come every month if I could afford the train fare
(unsolicited testimonial)
 
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jenc

New member
By the way I started with an egyptian-style teacher who never said what was egyptian about anything and taught us our first year's choreo to Kiss Kiss which for those who don't know is Turkish.
I then moved on to a Tribal-style teacher, and an Egyptian native teacher (who dosen't teach egyptian style but a more watered down western version)
I am now back with fisr teacher in her second year group, and everything I know about dance styles and even most of what I know about technique for egyptian-style has come from here and Bhuz.
The thing that is most likely to awaken an interest in style(s) is seeing good dancing and becoming aware of the differences.
I remember that the first time many of us saw any egyptian dance was at the end of our first year when the teacher pt on costume and danced. If you can get in early, can you play dvds of dancers during class gathering or dispersing time. Or how about taking 5 mins of class time to show a dance clip and ask for comments? Will they come to separate dvd night? Do they come to Saqarah? Those who become interested will want to know about styles......... those who are only interested in cool dancing may well not.

AND when I started, the teacher did not give any real info on how to do moves... I needed to practice at home and I bought a number of dvds. I bought Jenna and I also bought Ariellah. I found these useful for building muscle capability and endurance, even though I then found out (from Heather Burby at a workshop) tghat this wasn't egyptian technique. I still found it useful to drill with these dvds for another year to train my muscles into the ability to do egyptian.

So, yes as a beginner it is not necessarily crucial to learn all about Egyptian technique. But I would love my teachers to have drip fed me info, to have raised the idea in my head that there were differences.

In particular, though we have no category in the UK of English style. It is assumed that everything that isn't Tribal is egyptian. Then tribal is allowed to get away with being classed as more earthy and grounded (Fifi), even more sensouous. I think what I am saying is that there is more to awakening a love of egyptian dance than using a pop song with a Saidi rythmn. We need to see more good dancing. See you soon at SAQARAH
Jen
 

Marya

Member
Hi Eshta! I don't think it's realistic to expect students who have been studying this dance only a few months to discover/appreciate subtleties such as emotional connection to the music. I've been belly dancing since 1981, and I have seen a pattern repeat itself many, many times in which novice dancers BEGIN by thinking of belly dancing as a collection of moves, a physical technique. It's not a question of using music people relate to, it's a question of teaching them that there's more to dance in general than physically manipulating your body into different positions.
Shira,

How true, beginners and even intermediates think that Belly dance is a collection of moves only. However, I didn't start studying Belly Dance with any teachers who felt that authenticity was critical. so I don't know if I would have been able to escape this pattern or not when I was a student. My first teacher taught quite a bit about emotional expression, but didn't use Middle Eastern Music. She had us drill certain movements then asked us to think about how the movement made us feel and how we could put that feeling into the movement, but she was very American in every thing else. My second teacher suppressed all emotional content and emphasized technique, choreography and used alot of Faux ME music and pop Egyptian.

So my education was lacking. Would I have been able to understand the relationship between music emotional expression, musical interpretation and the need for improvisation at the very beginning? I don't know. There is just so much to learn to be able to take that all in at the very beginning.

But because of the kind of person I am, (I really like authenticity) I kept looking for more and finally after 16 years feel like I get it.

Also, it is hard not to notice, even if you are not normally very expressive, that the dance itself generates many emotions. So it makes sense that emotional expression should be a part of the dance.

Marya
 

Aniseteph

New member
I agree, many students thinking it's just a collection of moves, and that this is soooo wrong. But, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. My personal take on it is that a little Arabic pop/fusion at least keeps some of the less thirsty horses around the trough for a while while they think about it. (and over-stretching the metaphor, they are paying to keep the trough open for the thirsty ones ;))

IMO there are two slightly different issues here - a) what they are learning in class (introducing more complex music and touching on the emotional side, even if it's just to show them it is there) and b) a first student performance.

For the performance, what do you want to achieve, for your students and the audience? Even if you gave them Randa I wonder if the audience would get the subtleties of Egyptian dance! And you can't, of course.... So IMO if your students can show some sharp technique, look good and show that it is not just about shaking it, and be well received (thinking accessible but appropriate music and not too long), you will have done good.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Eshta, I am certainly not going to "boo you off the forum stage" for what is a very original and intriguing idea, with plenty of good reasoning to back it up. However, if you are going to teach Egyptian, teach Egyptian, and don't try to make it more accessible by watering it down with American blues, even when those blues are modified by a middle eastern singer.

Once you bring American or English or Russian music into Egyptian-style dance, you have lost an essential part of what makes it Egyptian in the first place. I wouldn't even use this song in teaching AmCab (which is all I teach) because it is American through and through, even with the change in rhythm, and not middle eastern at all.

You could give students a translation of Egyptian lyrics and sing the English along with the Arabic a few times in class if that is necessary to help students link the emotional content of the words with the music. The more middle eastern music your students listen to, the better their ear for it will be. Appreciation may come slowly, but for the genuinely interested students, it will come, I promise you.
 

Aniseteph

New member
I feel like one of those people who goes "it didn't do me any harm" when debating corporal punishment... :D
 

Donia

New member
I wouldn't beat yourself up over their less than enthusiastic response to the what I would consider more advanced topics like musicality and emotional response. I do think those are some of the most important aspects of a great dancers versus a medicore one, but I don't think most students are ready to recognize and appreciate those qualities quite that early in their development.

Although I'm not familiar with the song, I do think Natasha Atlas is a fine choice. In my experience, it takes a while to develop their "ears" as well. I've been told that sounds like the rababa or the zurna give people "a headache" at first. It sometimes takes years before we start to listen to those instruments with smile on our face. So, I like to start with something easy for students to appreciate. For example, almost everyone seems to like Hakim and Saad (happy, upbeat, 4/4). But, because of the age, the fusion sound of Natasha Atlas is likely to be a big hit.

I think you're decision to choose it was well-thought out, and you should stick to it.

On a side tangent, I've seen the local university's bellydance class on many occasions. Most of the time I'm appalled by the choice and state of costuming (things looking like they're not going to stay in place, fabric doesn't cover quite all that it should, costuming not in good repair, etc.). And when these college students have choreographed their own pieces, there are two constantly re-occuring issues:
(a) Over dancing - it's hard for new dancers to feel that they're "doing" enough to impress the crowd and
(b) Overly Scandalous <grin>. I'm hardly a prude, but I've rolled myself many times at the movement choices made.

And I went off on that tangent to say this: presenting them with a well-structured choreography is a wonderful thing. Showing them how to incorporate the movements with the music is a fabulous learning experience that they (most likely) desparately need and are currently ready to absorb. You can work some of the musically and emotional expression theory into the classes teaching the choreography by describing why you choose a certain movement, how to express what the song is describing, or how a particular combination fits with the flow of the song.

You sound like a devoted and generous teacher. Your students are lucky to have you.
 

Kashmir

New member
If you want a cross over piece - why not choose some Arabic pop? There's lots out there with good beat (but not drum machine constant) and simple concepts in the lyrics. A dancer's first choreography in a new style tends to burn deep. Starting with faux ME music is likely to mean if any continue with the dance it'll be as fusion dancers - which would be sad as they never had the chance to choose the one true path :rolleyes:
 

bopeep

New member
I'm a new student, but considerably more 'mature' than your typical university student. :D In many ways, I am similar to them and thier exposure to and pre-existing concepts of belly dance. In other ways though, I am different - I have a pre-existing love/fascination with many things Egyptian and Middle Eastern (studied Egyptian Arabic, already loved Warda and Fairouz, and have many pop Egyptian cd's)

I think sometimes people who have travelled very far along a path, forget the level of (or lack of) enthusiam or desire newbies generally have (I have been guilty of this very thing in my own areas of expertise!). Most beginners really don't want to know *everything* (or even anything) about Middle Eastern dancing or the culture surrounding it. They just want to learn some neat dance moves for the clubs. However, there will always be one or two that is bitten by the bug, and wants more and more - more 'moves', more background, more knowledge, more classes, etc...

I also think some level of catering to the 'Shakira wannabe' crowd is going to be necessary in any university or rec centre beginner class, but the instructor should also give as much history and background as possible about what they are teaching as well. This way, those like me, who do want more, will get it, and the rest can think about weather this is something they want to pursue or not.

I would think Natacha Atlas' "I put a Spell on You" is a great selection for a beginner class, but I would also explain why it is not traditional. Those already hooked will want to know what *is* traditional, those sort of hooked will do their Natacha Atlas choreo and may stick around a bit longer and think about it, and anyone that just wants to be Shakira II will only take what they want from it no matter what you tell them! :lol:


BP
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
Hi Eshta,

I would recommend going for a song which is Arabic but has an easy musical pattern.

Nursery rhymes operate with children in the same way.

If you are looking at a song like this, you might want to try Arab Habibi by Tamer Hosny

I find this is a very easy one to get people humming along too and is good to use as a stepping stone onto more complex music.


YouTube - Tamer Hosny - Arab habibi
 

jenc

New member
Very nice beginner music and I can see movements fitting to different bits - which would be a good starting point
 
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Maria_Aya

New member
Hi Eshta,

I would recommend going for a song which is Arabic but has an easy musical pattern.

Nursery rhymes operate with children in the same way.

If you are looking at a song like this, you might want to try Arab Habibi by Tamer Hosny

I find this is a very easy one to get people humming along too and is good to use as a stepping stone onto more complex music.


YouTube - Tamer Hosny - Arab habibi
Ok me being paranoic Egyptian here lol
Arab habibi is THE most classic song to use for Simsimeya, so any arab that watch it danced as bellydance see it as wrong....
 

jenc

New member
like this.?


Don't want to start another of those authenticity arguments. I still think it would be a good choice. First year students are not going to be authentic anyway!!!!

Which is where we came in!!!!
 
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Eshta

New member
like this.?


First year students are not going to be authentic anyway!!!!

Which is where we came in!!!!
I guess that's the spiral I keep going around!

I'm relieved that this thread has sparked a lively debate, to throw some more wood onto the fire, some more ramblings from me:

Normally I play it 'safe' and use Egyptian pop but clearly even this has its authenticity issues. Also, how authentic really is pop? I haven't yet seen an Egyptian dancer performing to Nancy Ajram (although welcome the opportunity to be proven wrong). I know dancers appear in many videos, but that's something different. Also, Egyptian pop is heavily influenced by all sorts of international sounds, is it still authentic? Arrrgh, the authenticity issue!!!! Not again!!!

I often use language teaching as a useful comparison. The moves are vocabulary, technique is the accent and intonation, the style is the dialect, etc. I would rather have a bunch of students who can recite nursery rhymes with passion, zeal and understanding than a bunch who can recite Shakespeare but don't have a clue what the words mean, if that makes sense.

I guess at what point should they start connecting to the music? Could you imagine hip hop or street dance without that connection? And how does one go about creating that connection? Through full immersion or small steps at a time?

(by the way, please don't let this kill the thread as the topic still intrigues me, but I think I've settled on what song I'm going to use, will update you when the thread dies ;))
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
Ok me being paranoic Egyptian here lol
Arab habibi is THE most classic song to use for Simsimeya, so any arab that watch it danced as bellydance see it as wrong....
:lol: Simsimiya is used in this pop song but that is where the style ends..

It is a classic pop song and has been danced 'belly dance' as at every party/wedding i have been to since it came out.

Some songs have a little 'Saaidi' thing going on, but it does not make it a 'classic Saaidi'.

Different rhythms and styles are often used and fused in pop.
 
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