Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday, December 03, 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mini Review: Egyptian Music Appreciation and Practice for Bellydancers- Dr George Sawa

I'm a huge believer in dancers educating themselves about middle eastern dance, music and culture. When I started dancing 15 years ago there was very little media available aimed at dancer education. In particular, there was very little available on middle eastern music. I was fortunate enough to have a teacher who believed in working with musicians, and was able to attend a Hossam Ramzy music workshop and then later pick up a copy of the rhythm teaching CD he produced. Since then I've sought out every music resource I can find.

It was with great pleasure this week that I received the copy of Egyptian Music Appreciation and Practice for Bellydancers by Dr George Sawa that I had ordered from Canada. Dr Sawa has produced a 30 page 2 CD primer aimed at developing a dancers musicality. The manual has four chapters and is accompanied by 2 CDs with 65 tracks: 21 dance rhythms, cymbal patterns, drum and riqq solos; 8 maqams; photographs and descriptions of 32 instruments; and explanation of 6 musical dance forms.

The first chapter covers 21 rhythms used in Egyptian dance music. On the accompanying CD the basic unadorned rhythm is followed by an example of the rhythm used in a danceable track. This allows you to learn, sing and tap the rhythms, and then allows you to dance to recorded examples of each rhythm. Chapter 2 familiarizes you with the modes in two ways: musical scales and short melodies. Chapter 3 describes the musical instruments, and includes a photograph and a sound example of each one. Chapter 4 explains the main musical forms - essential for understanding the structure of the music for choreographing.

This is a great introduction to Egyptian music. It is great to have a concise and digestible scholarly resource that addresses not only the basics such as instruments, rhythms and maqams, but starts to delve into the structure of the music. The tracks on the accompanying CD are of sufficient length to be useful - a common failing in instructional resources. I highly recommend this to students and teachers alike - this is a key resource for understanding Egyptian music. It forms a nice complement to some of the other music instructional resources available on the market, most of which focus on percussion.

I particularly enjoyed the in depth breakdown of several dance pieces. These are of particular interest to choreographers and advanced dancers and are great for really 'getting your ear in'.

I'd really like to see a Volume 2 which focuses more on this approach to musical forms. I'd also like to see more in depth discussion of the melodic modes included in that volume. Ideally the second volume would discuss both classical and baladi music (my paricular passion). Also on my dream wish list is companion DVD which shows musicians playing the various instruments, rhythms and maqams, and then a dancer demonstrating appropriate stylization and steps. A big project, I know - but what a fabulous learning tool this would be for dancers who don't have easy access to musicians! (There are a few projects along these lines on the market. Dancers such as Keti Sharif and Ranya Renee have produced dance resources with a similar focus. They are really useful.)

In summary: This is an essential reference for any serious Egyptian style dancer or teacher. You certainly won't regret the investment. I only wish it had been around when I was a baby dancer.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Improvisation skills

So what can you do to improve your improvisation?
2. Dance to middle eastern music regularly. Dance to live music when you get a chance.
3. Listen some more. The better you understand the music the easier it is to improvise. Learn the standard set of ME rhythms. Get familiar with classic BD songs such as Alf Layla Wa Layla, Amint Billah, Tamra Henna etc.
4. Drill technique.
5. Drill transitions.
6. Learn combinations. Great for improving transitions, these make great improvisational building blocks.
7. Learn choreography. Great for developing your flow.
8. Watch as many performances as you can.
9. Match moves to instruments. Think about where on the body the instrument is played - this can help you pick which part of the body to move. Dance to the beat. Dance to the melody.
10. Keep the beat in your feet.
11. Use combinations.
12. Variations are your friend. Explore each move fully.
13. Create a loose structure.
14. Have a set of safety moves/combinations.
15. Use the rule of fours.
16. Use the breath. BREATHE!

DVDs that can improve your improvisational skills:
Nadira Jamal - Improvisational Toolkit Volumes 1 and 2

Combinography with Bahaia

Bellydance Egyptian Style Baladi - Ranya Renee

Friday, November 19, 2010

So why improvise?

A student asked me "why learn about music?" and "why bother learn to improvise?" in this day of a thousand and one choreography DVDs.

The very essence of this dance is its connection with the music. Historically a dancer has danced to live music, much of which traditionally has been either wholly improvisational or has an improvised component. If you don't know what your musicians will play how can you choreograph it? If a dancer cannot hear the music and understand it, how can she interpret it? Improvisation is a foundation for much more than just on the spot performance. If a dancer cannot improvise, she can't begin to create music driven choreography for herself, and if she can't do that, then she'll forever be a lesser dancer than one who can.

A colleague once said "To abandon that skill in this dance may as well be it's death knell."

Gaby Alf Leyla wa Layla رقص عربي

Friday, November 12, 2010

Want Want Want!

New from Ranya Renee- one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITE instructors. Looks fantastic!!!
Ranya's Website

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Fantastic resource for understanding Arabic music

I just found a fantastic resource for dancers and musicians who want to understand Arabic music in more depth: Maqamworld

Priceless! Ranya Renee of NYV and Maqamikaze company - ALf Layla wa Layla

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Lorna of Scotland

Lorna of Scotland

Love the drop with hip hits at 1:38.

Downloads at Film Baby

I'm loving the instant gratification of dance DVD downloads from FilmBaby. I downloaded the FCBD Floorwork technique DVD to watch on my iphone on the way to work. Lovely yoga sequence for improving your floorwork.

New Drum Solo DVD

Another for my want list!!

Waiting impatiently!

I'm hoping that the long awaited Belly Dance Egyptian Style: Classical Oriental from Ranya Renee will be out soon. She has two other new releases on the cards too: Belly Dance Taqasim: Improvisation Skills & Drills and Maqamat DVD. Great to see so much instruction on musicality coming out! Can't wait to get these in my hands!!!

New Releases from Cheeky Girls Productions

Michelle has done it yet again!!!

I can't wait for this one!!

Another gem!

Love it!

Another great DVD!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Turns and Spins DVD

Another wonderful DVD coming from Cheekygirl productions!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Belly By Sandra Vol 3

In the mail... heh heh!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

Saturday, February 06, 2010

New Fusion DVD from WDNY

Looks interesting in terms of theatricality and staging...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Doctors without borders

Hi folks,

Lots of tragedy around the world at the moment - particularly in places like Haiti. Please take a moment to support Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders) and the Red Cross

Monday, January 04, 2010


I had to share this because it holds true for dance too...