Why Belly Dancers Should Take Music Classes

10429455_10153039963806690_7856203292189762348_nWe’ve all done it. We get super jazzed about the next BIG festival and cannot WAIT to take from our favorite dance stars. There are a bazillion classes all scheduled at the same time and the absolute last thing on our mind are those music classes. Perhaps there is a class about drum rhythms, perhaps there is a class about musicality and dance or perhaps there is a class about Arabic musical modes called maqamat. (Ahem…I teach that class and I can tell you most dancers do go screaming in the other direction.) Those all seem well and good, but you came to get your money’s worth – get the technique, get the combos, get the choreographies. Dance, dance, DANCE! Who has time for a drum class? Why would I go learn to play an instrument when I’m never going to play it? As a dancer and musician, I can tell you music theory and drum technique give SO MUCH to your dance. I have a passion for providing dancers with musical education, especially as it pertains to Arabic music, so here are 5 things you will gain as a dancer if you take a music class at a belly dance festival:

  1. Learning music helps you interpret better. It goes without saying, but, learning the intricacies of Middle Eastern rhythms or counting goes a long way in helping your dance. You don’t need to be a seasoned dancer to start that education!
  2. Learning instrument technique . This one is fun, you may think – why would I need to learn an instrument? Learning technique on a drum will help you interpret the different sounds it makes, so you gain an entirely new appreciation for drum solos.
  3. The music classes are not crowded. You’ll get much more from the teacher. I’ve been in classes where there are 1-2 people and you have access to a world renown musician. How fabulous is that?
  4. You can give your body a break. Dancing all weekend on a concrete floor in a hotel ballroom is hardly healthy. Take a break and sit. Let your mind work different skills in a music class.
  5. Begin to speak musician. I laugh sometimes because I feel I speak two languages – dancer and musician. Become bilingual and truly connect with a piece of music or DARE I SAY IT – a live band!

There are at least two great festivals in Atlanta that provide dancers with music classes. This year, Essence of Belly Dance will feature master percussionist Issam Houshan. This guy knows his stuff and can talk to you not only about percussion technique, but the origins of different drum iqat (rhythms) oh yeah, and he toured a few times with the Bellydance Superstars. Aziza Nawal will also be co-teaching a drum solo class with Issam. If that’s not enough motivation to go to that class, I don’t know what is. BTW, here’s Aziza dancing with Issam:

Near and dear to my heart is TribalCon. I am so happy that TribalCon has an entire track dedicate to music. As an Arabic music enthusiast, I have to highlight the TribalCon teacher Kylie Hilali who plays an extremely complex Arabic/Turkish instrument called the qanoon. Her singing classes last year were amazing and she’ll be back this year to teach you more Middle Eastern tunes, no instrument needed except your voice. Here’s a little sneak peak of Kylie performing Ana Fintizarak with the TribalCon Pit at last year’s Tribalcon:

As with many other posts, I feel like this one will get more and more added to the list. Do you want to add to this list? Great! Share what you think are some advantages of taking a music class at a belly dance festival.

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