Valentine’s day is just around the corner and whether or not you celebrate it there are so many media messages and “Hallmark” type quotes that float about our daily lives. One line that comes to mind is “feel the love”. I have no idea where it came from but that is what popped into my head when I opened my blank document to write this blogletter and then I stopped. What would “feel the love” translate into dance? For me, it simply would translate into “Feel the dance” but this short sentence means so much more than just the three words that comprise it. Every song has a feeling that it is trying to convey with it’s lyrics, melody and rhythm.
In Bollywood, I find the feeling is almost always easily conveyed, whether you speak the language or not; upbeat music usually means the emotion of the song is happy or exciting things are happening, while softer, more lyrical music denotes a more temperate or sadder tone. Luckily, many of the Bollywood songs on YouTube are from movies so you can directly see how the mood of the song is supposed to be. Also, you can see the types of dance moves that would work with the song and build your own dance inspired by those moves.
In belly dance, the music is more challenging, especially when you don’t speak the language and many videos available don’t necessarily portray the nuances of the songs. I’ve ran across at least a few songs that sounded happy or update but in fact it actually was a sad song. As a dancer, no matter what genre you dance, knowing the meaning of the song is essential in feeling the dance and reflecting the mood and meaning of the song in your movements.
So how do you improve your knowledge so you can feel the dance?
Learn the Language or Find trustworthy translation sources
If you have access to translated versions of the words of songs you’re interested that’s the first step if you don’t have instant access to a teacher that assist you. Attend your local classes and learn from the teachers who choose songs they are familiar with; most of us are more than happy to provide you with some direction. There are also companies that offer translation services, like Belly Dance Empire (https://www.bellydanceempire.com/song-translation) that will not only provide you a translation but will structure the translation in an easy to follow way so you can follow along with the song with greater ease than just a random translation on YouTube. Belly Dance Empire has native speakers of the Arabic language and musical backgrounds that they can assist in breaking the song down for language and rhythm. Another option is attending workshops/classes offered by instructors like Denise Enan, Nada el-Masriya, Mohammed Shanin, Dr. George Sawa, to name a few, that are great sources for not only knowing what the song is saying but how to interrupt the feeling of the song.
Learn the Rhythms, the musical nuances
Understanding the rhythms and patterns in the songs is another large portion of being able to feel the dance and translate it into moves you dance. Unfortunately, learning all of the rhythms and musical patterns for belly dance music takes time, patience and practice. There are CDs and instructional DVDs out there that can help and of course attending workshop which focus on rhythms and musicality are a great benefit for any dance, no matter their level. There is always something new one can learn from a rhythm focused workshop.
Pick a Song. Pick it Apart and create a dance with a mentor/teacher.
To reinforce and practice what we learn from our translated songs, and workshop, I suggest picking a song that you just can’t stop listening to and dissect it. Start by seeing if you can understand the general feeling and rhythms of the songs. Break the song apart into sections and consider what movements in your repertoire as a dancer do you feel goes with each of those sections. Video tape yourself and make clean notes that you can share. Ask your teacher or mentor if they can look over what you’ve done because your want to see if you’ve interpreted the song so far ok. Most teachers will provide some constructive feedback and will let you know what areas you need to improve. This is a great way to start tuning your ear and learning who to express yourself as a dancer.
Remember to have fun and just feel the dance!
There will be days where you will get completely frustrated and curse while you’re recording yourself; I’ve been there and I still have the recording to prove it. It’s ok. Take a deep breath. Hit the rewind button and just dance.