Choosing Belly Dance Music For Practice or Performance
What kind of music does a 'real' belly dancer dance to? The answer depends on the type of dance you wish to do. For the purpose of this article, we can divide it into two broad categories: practice or performance belly dancing.
Belly Dance Music For Practice
People have all kinds of reasons for taking up belly dancing, but the majority of people practice belly dance for fun, fitness, or as a hobby. Most don't plan to dance anywhere but at home, the dance studio, or perhaps mixing in a few belly dancing moves at parties. Practicing for these purposes is informal and non-professional.
If you're dancing for fun at parties and mixing a few of your favorite moves along with popular dance steps, you're doing a 'fusion' style of dance. The definition of fusion dance is the mixing or fusing of different styles or genres of dance movement and music. Because of this mixing, you can use virtually any type of music for fusion belly dancing. (Hear a sample of fusion belly dance music, "Badawia")
Virtually any type of music can also be used if you're practicing for your own fitness or health purposes. Music is a fantastic motivator to get us on our feet and moving. Whether you want to dance for an aerobic workout, a moving meditation, or a stretching routine, choosing the right music is very important. Using the music that most inspires you to move helps you enjoy the experience more and gives you better end-results. To best achieve your health goals, you aren't limited to a particular style or genre of music and you're free to use your favorite songs.
If you're learning belly dance as a hobby, art form, or to experience other cultures, you'll need to learn how to dance to authentic music. Belly dance music is a large category, but to generalize, it is Near or Mid-Eastern dance music that is traditional or modern. Some traditional genres of Middle Eastern music are Turkish, Lebanese, Egyptian, and Arabic. Modern Middle Eastern music is traditional music that is mixed with some Western elements, a style that's been evolving for decades. (Hear a sample of modern Lebanese belly dance music, "Balady Mood")
If you're serious about learning authentic belly dancing, you'll need to understand traditional and modern Middle Eastern music and how to apply belly dance hip moves to it correctly. Unless you're already familiar with Middle Eastern music, you'll definitely need a teacher (via class room or video) to introduce you to this diverse subject. Fortunately, authentic music, both traditional and modern, is beautiful and compelling, making the learning process exciting and fun, if not a bit challenging for the Westerner.
Belly Dance Music For Performance
As mentioned earlier, most people don't take up the study of belly dance so that they can perform. But once your friends and family hear about your newfound skill, they often want to see you dance, sometimes in a public setting. In addition, if you attend classes, you'll frequently have opportunities for public performance with your teachers or fellow students. There are also the belly dancers whose main goal is to perform in public venues, as well as those who wish to become professional performers.
In all the above cases, authentic dance music must be used if you are presenting yourself as an authentic belly dancer. That means using music that is either tradition Middle Eastern dance music or the more modern blends using Mid Eastern instruments, rhythms, and/or melodies with Western instruments, elements and interpretations. Furthermore, you must use the proper music for the style of the dance that you are doing. An example would be using authentic Egyptian dance music for an Egyptian cabaret style dance. This is where it's really important to understand the style of bellydance that you're doing and the music that goes with it. (Hear a sample of traditional Mid-Eastern music, "Chifte Telli").
In a professional or public setting, if you're performing a 'fusion' style it's important that you represent it as fusion in your advertising and introduction. As long as your audience knows that you're mixing genres of dance moves and/or music, it's acceptable to use any type of music (an example of fusion would be using belly dance and jazz dance moves to hip hop music). However, if you try to pass off a fusion style as authentic belly dance, be prepared for the possibility that someone will criticize you. More people than ever are educated about bellydance and many don't like to see it misrepresented. When performing in public or professionally, it's important to understand the different genres of dance moves and music and to know how to use them appropriately. (Hear a sample of modern Arabic drum music).
The good news is that for bellydancing, you aren't restricted to a narrow definition of what music is acceptable for you to dance to. There's a style of music for every dancer's tastes and needs, whether dancing for practice or performance.
If you liked this article, read other belly dance articles by Atéa. Her article "What is Belly Dance?" discusses the evolution and definition. Another article "Creating Inner Peace With Oriental Dance" is about healing aspects of belly dancing. "The Phenomenon of the American Belly Dancer" discusses the development and impact in America and it's influence worldwide. Learn how to make or to purchase belly dancing costumes in "Your First Belly Dance Costume".
Return to section page about the belly dance articles.