Non-Arabic Bellydance Music
Can or should I dance to other styles of music?
Each case is different, because dancing to a non-ME/Oriental song will need to be a total adaptation of the moves to the chosen song, dancing to a mix will require to adapt moves to the different parts that are either non-ME/Oriental or the ones that are, and dancing to half and half song will require to adapt to each of the different rhythms.
You can see that it can be a little more complex than we think, because if not well thought, the new piece might not flow very well.
Samba and Hawaiian rhythms for Belly Dance fusions…
Here is a fusion that has been getting very popular the last few years. I have watched very nice performances that fuse belly dance moves with samba moves, or that use samba rhythms to belly dance.
Samba beats are in a certain way similar to some ME rhythms, that’s because samba is known to be a Brazilian rhythm, it has its roots in Africa. That makes it a very interesting fusion, and very fast and upbeat, great for drum solos mixes.
In this particular fusion, I think it is better to either adapt some samba moves into ME music, or adapt some belly dance moves to a samba rhythm. The half and half would work too, but I don’t think it flows as good as if you just mix the moves to the one rhythm, either ME or Samba.
That’s another fusion that is easy to adapt, either if you choose fast drumming Hawaiian beats to belly dance, or the soft Hawaiian melodies to perform a veil dance or baladi moves.
Pop and Rock songs for Belly Dance fusions…
Many dancers in North America love to perform to more modern and new pop songs like for example songs from Lady Gaga, Madonna, and many other pop stars. I can even include Shakira songs in this category, because most of her songs are pop rock.
These styles of music can be a little trickier to adapt to Belly Dance because most of these rhythms are very different and in a way, and adaptation can be challenging, it will definitely create a big diversion from the traditional forms of belly dancing.
I have organized different belly dance shows, and many of them had these kind of fusion pieces. That’s because I proposed a ‘theme’ for the show. One of them was a ‘psychedelic’ belly dance show, and dancers had to create pieces to psychedelic music from the 60’s. For that show, I performed to a Rolling Stones song called ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, and I did mostly soft belly dance moves like snake arms and hip rolls, taking advantage of every accent, that song was followed by another 60’s rock song to which I mixed rock moves with Belly Dance moves. I think that if you search Yonisha (Go with the flow) on YouTube you can still find the video for that fusion piece.
Anyway, taking this into consideration, always remember to know the song very well, and to smooth all the transitions of the fusion pieces, either the rhythms or the moves.
Techno and Electronic music for Belly Dance fusions…
A lot Oriental and Middle Eastern flavored techno and electronic music has been created and they are great for modern Belly Dance fusion performances. Many of these songs are very powerful and impressive, and resemble pharaonic times. Not that they are pharaonic, but for me they recall a pharaonic state of art, giving a big dimension to the performance, and taking the audiences to feel the ecstasy of the performer on stage.
Examples of artists that have created this kind of music are Dilentir, Claude Challe, Shiva in Exhile, Solace, Beats Antique, and many more. The Bellydance Superstars use this style of music a lot, and create amazing and very impressive theatrical fusion pieces.
Techno and electronic songs are also very commonly used for American Tribal and Tribal Fusion performances. They are great for Tribal performances, helps the improvisational flow of the movements. And because of its repetitive and hypnotic rhythms that can be anticipated by the dancers, it works very well for these impromptu collective pieces.
Depending on your personality and dance skills, you might choose to take that route and explore the amazing possibilities of music styles around the world. But is always good to take some things into consideration, so that you don’t step into unknown territory and get hurt. Many dancers in our community around the world are very sensitive to the evolution of the art, and do not like fusion at all.
Also, not all audiences will understand the different fusions we dancers create, so it is important to specify the details in your introduction as much as possible. For example, if I perform a fusion of Samba-Belly for a non-ME/Oriental audience in North America and I introduce it as ‘belly dance’ only, they will not know that it is a fusion piece with Samba from Brazil, since they’re not familiar with either culture. And that’s when you step into the ‘sensitive territory’ of belly dance.
Another thing, since we are already immersed into a belly dance tower of babel in terms of nomenclature and definition of styles, make sure you always define what you’re doing, if you are performing a classic traditional piece, name it the way it is – Saiidi, Baladi, Egyptian cabaret, etc. – but if you are mixing any elements, either using music from a different culture, using a modern mix of oriental music with techno, or mixing modern props, make sure to name it a fusion of ‘whatever the mix is’, that will save you from a lot of trouble, hear my words!
Remember, even though Isis was an ancient Egyptian Goddess with wings, the Isis Wings prop is a modern fusion adaptation of belly dancing, and it is commonly performed with music that is not traditional. The reason for the choices of music not being traditional in the biggest part of the performances, is because techno and electronic music flows better for dancing with Isis Wings. Anyway, it is definitely a fusion, so describe it as so!
Finally, I am not a traditionalist myself, and most of my performances are created with music from diverse sources. I love experimenting, but I also understand the sensitivity of keeping the cultural traditions intact. Both are amazing, modern fusion and traditional. I love it all! So, if you feel like it, I recommend trying this route, but after you have mastered and understood the basics of the traditional teachings.
I welcome your comments and feedback!
May the power of dance be with you!
Miriam Cunha (a.k.a. Yonisha)