Ottawa Dancers’ Blogletter 2018/03/11

A Dancers’ Guide to getting the most out of the Ottawa Souk Part 3 – Music and Videos

You have a hip scarf and/or a new costume but now you want some music to dance to or watch a video to learn or practice to at home.  At the Souk there will be  vendors that will be selling Music CDs as well as Videos (instructional and/or performance DVDs).  Below, I discuss things to consider before and while you start shopping for music and/or videos.


As a dancer and a teacher I have made my own music or shall I say sound affects to dance or teach moves.  I am definitely not a singer and I don’t have extensive knowledge on every song I listen to or choose to dance on.  My choice of songs I use, to teach or perform to, will depend if I can either naturally start dancing to it or I can imagine moves; most songs I choose tend to have some emotional pull on me as well.  So how do you choose music for Belly dance and/or Bollywood when you’re not a music aficionado? 

Ask your teacher for their playlist?  Most likely you liked the songs you were dancing to in class so why not ask for a list of the songs (title, artist, album).  This a great starting place because you already know if you like the songs or not.

Use your social media to ask your dance friends for recommendations.  Even non-dance friends will chime in with suggestions.

Go down the music hole on iTunes or eMusic.  Either site usually will direct your search to “World” music in some way or start your search by find one of the songs you know.  iTunes alone often provides recommendations at the bottom of the page when you start clicking.

Use you YouTube to search playlists or songs.  This is also a great way to watch and learn other dancers and their interpretations of the songs you like.  Also, this is a great place to see if the songs have subtitles to learn what the song is actually saying.

Ask the vendor that is selling music for suggestions.  Most often they’ll ask what are you looking for but if you go through suggestions 1 thru 4 you’ll have a bit  of a better idea.

While you browse for Music here are some things to keep in mind when shopping:

Belly dance music:

Are you looking for Oriental or Folkloric music?

If you’re looking for Oriental music are you looking for classical or modern?  Modern belly dance music may have more a Pop feel to it, while classical music may have more varied rhythms.

If you’re looking for Folkloric music what style are you looking for; there are a variety of folkloric music such as Saidi, Nubian, or Ghawazee to name a few.

What about tribal or fusion music?  I can’t speak for tribal but as far a fusion music is concern well, fusion can be anything you choose you want to dance to.  Fusion dance is just that, fusion.  It is not classical, modern or folkloric belly dance.  If you choose to fuse belly dance moves you’ve learnt to non-belly dance, music please inform your audience that you are doing fusion and not “authentic belly dance”.  For instance, when I choose to dance to a video game soundtrack sound such as a Assassin Creed’s title song by Lindsay Sterling using Veil and belly dance music, I do not consider it authentic belly dance, I call it Veil fusion.

What length of music are you looking for?  In Ottawa for most student shows, soloist slots are 3 minutes in length while 4 minutes are commonly used for groups.  Four minutes is also a common length for competitions so looking for songs between 3 to 4 minutes is a good place to start.  However, if you’re great at mixing music using programs like Audacity or Garage Band, then I would say the sky’s the limit and I may want to talk to you to get help in better cutting/mixing my music.

Bollywood dance music:

Are you looking for more Bhangra or Pop music?  Bhangra music tends to feel more bouncy and exciting while Pop Bollywood music feels a little more lyrical.

Bollywood movie mixes can be good as a go to as they will expose you to a variety of songs from a variety of movies.  If you like one song from a particular movies you can then go and check out the rest of the songs on iTunes and/or YouTube.

What length of music are you looking for?  As above the average song to look for would be typically 3 to 4 minutes if you are planning to perform one song.  If you’re just looking to practice at home or wherever, you can choose your own desired length.

What about fusion Bollywood music?  I would say that’s a trick question.  Bollywood is already a fusion style of music.  There are folkloric/classical Indian dances but that is a topic for maybe another time.


Although videos can not replace a teachers eye to help with corrections and the great feeling of being in a dance class they are a great resource to keeping you dancing when you’re not able to get to a class or dance outside your home.

There are two typically types of videos available; instructional and performance.  Instructional DVDs are exactly that, they will instruct you in learning dance moves individually, in combinations and/or full choreographies.  Performance videos are more focuses on just performances and not break down the moves or choreographies you’ll see.  Although performance videos are great to watch a dancers interpretation of the music, and/or maybe even watch a whole structured story performed in dance, they are not the best to learn moves from.  Instructional videos definitely have this advantage over performance videos as well as often will have a performance anyway at the end of the video for you to see all of the moves in action to a song. 

However, there are a lot of instructional videos out there and each will focus on different parts of the dance.  I suggest the following things to think about:

Are you looking to improve the basic movements of the dance?  There existing videos that will just focus on technique over combinations.  Nada El Masriya has a couple of instructional videos that provide a great overview of belly dance moves along with showing them in a combination.  Hadia also as a great series of DVDs that really breaks down moves as well. 

Are you wanting to have a practice companion that provides a structured dance routine?  Aziza of Montreal has her Practice Companion DVDs that will definitely give you a good work out while continuing to work on your dance moves.

Are you looking to focus your dance on a style?  There are videos for modern Egyptian belly dance and individual folkloric styles.  There are videos for tribal style belly dance as well.

Are you looking to focus on learning a prop?  There are videos that can teach you to dance with a shamadan, sword, cane/stick, isis wings and my personal favourite veil.

Are you looking to improve one portion of your dance technique?  There are videos that focus on just shimmies, drum solos, arms, floor etc.

Make your list of what you might be interested in learning.  Ask the vendor and/or your dance friends for recommendations.  I, myself will be happy to make suggestions for veil videos as I personally own a few with different instructors teaching the subject.  Now go find your dance!

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