e spent a little time in class the other night, looking at music we’ve danced to in the past. There were very few dances that we could get through correctly but we remembered bits and pieces. Some of us knew one bit, others’ another. All that was good. One thing we all agreed on was that that if we danced those dances now, we’d do them quite differently.
In the aeons that have passed since these ladies first fell into my teacher’s clutches, we have all changed and our dance has changed too. Apart from the fact that we have all aged and grown more comfortable with the dance moves, we have all gained a greater appreciation of the music with the passing years.
I’ll put my hand up here and say that I am rubbish at remembering names of artistes, albums or individual track on a CD. There are some ‘classics’ whose names escape me. I’d like to say that “when I hear it, I’ll know it”. But that’s not always true either, as my students will tell you! However, whether I know its name or not, I always put a lot of thought in developing dances to a particular piece of music.
When I look at the ‘tunes’ I danced to when I first started out, I reel back in horror. They are so twee, or dull or repetitive. As a beginner I obviously loved the steady beat and the predictable progression (if any) of the music. I listen now and hear a monotonous tune with few highs or lows, or places where one can put emphasis, or change levels of energy.
When I was a new teacher, with brand new students the music I chose for class dances was in a similar vein. When we tried dancing to them the other night we were, to be quite frank, bewildered. We recognised that these music choices were easy options and we’d come at it from a wholly different standpoint today.
There was one particular tune that we got nowhere with and butted heads over in class. They just wouldn’t do the moves I wanted or ‘go with it’. As a newish teacher I felt crushed, but took it on as a solo piece instead. But as we listened to it again the other night, the girls could finally see where I was coming from. Where I wanted pauses and arabesques back then, they naturally wanted to put pauses and hesitations in. Where I wanted to change focus onto the drum away from the chorus, they agreed and came up with other suggestions for highs and lows and energy changes. Crushed teacher turned proud teacher.
Pride and Prejudice
Another thing I have always been proud of, was that our performance choices were almost always M.E. based. I refused to use Shakira or some other western pop song. My students thought I was hard, but I had principals. Principals I sometimes abandoned for my own performances. Yes, whilst I love a good Egyptian tune, I have sometimes used western music for my own dance performances. A particular favourite was doing Melaya to ‘Boy does nothing’ by Aliesha Dixon. The music, the lyrics, the ‘feel’ of melaya all seemed to mesh and I ran with it.
Sometimes you are moved by a piece of music and can’t dance to anything else. At the moment, I am wholly overtaken by ‘This Is Me’ from ‘The Greatest Showman’ movie. I found something very powerful in this song, the manner in which it is performed in the movie and how I felt when I first started to dance to it in the kitchen. I’m currently taking it on tour to local haflas…
I can never tell which piece of music or artist I will become obsessed with next. Some years ago I wanted to take the fear out of ‘ente omri’ and started doing my own research on Om Kolthoum and the song itself. I fell wholly in love with it and became obsessed. I’ve still never danced to a ‘proper’ version of it but I have performed to a pop mix of it. One day I’ll go there….. Looking at a piece of music, getting the lyrics, listening to many versions can either kill your love for a song or multiply it.
Our choice of what we dance to cannot always be about what we like or what we are obsessed by. Sadly we have to comply with what’s appropriate to the situation. A five minute beladi piece full of angst and emotion goes down like a lead balloon in a restaurant.
When I got a brand new red frock that demanded Spanish elements in the music I turned to ‘Msafer wahdek’ as a dance vehicle. I downloaded umpteen different versions and became (yet again) obsessed with it. I ended up dancing to one that was not my favourite but because it was 4 mins and 5 seconds long and the organiser demanded 4 mins or less! If I were a Diva or a dancer with real standing I might get on my high horse and demand that I only dance to the music I want and in the way I want, but I’m not and, to be honest I need oxygen for a song longer than four minutes!
I think revisiting our old dances and music choices will be fun and educational in all manner of ways and really look forward to it.