Belly Dance on the Edge
By Denis Kavemeier, solo guitarist and accomplished musician
There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to a belly dancing performance. Many belly dancers prefer the choreographed approach, repeating much-rehearsed belly dancing steps to familiar recorded music. Other dancers can apply their belly dance techniques to live music. And some like to belly dance "on the edge!"
What does it mean to "belly dance on the edge?" It is having the confidence and free-spirited attitude to dance at moment's notice to live music, and pull it off like it was rehearsed.
As a musician in a band that plays for dancers of all types including belly dancers, I have the most respect for those who can perform to live music. Even if the dancer knows the melody, she can never be quite sure what interpretation a band might give to a familiar song like "Misirlu." That's when confidence and a good stage presence comes in handy for a dancer.
Some belly dancers take it a step further. They can dance to a band without knowing what they will play when she reaches the stage. When the famous belly dancer Delilah starred in a concert with Oasis in Wisconsin several years back, she performed completely unrehearsed to new music that she never heard before.
A few months before the concert, I called Delilah in Seattle to find out what she'd like us to play for her full-length routine. We were prepared to send her a custom recording of the music, so she could practice to it. She just replied, "Surprise me! I don't want to know," explaining that she gets creative energy from performing to unfamiliar music.
At the concert, Delilah did an exciting dance performance to new music by Oasis. We didn't give her a tried-and-true classic melody. Instead, Oasis played "on the edge" and improvised off an original melody, peppered by some very hot drum solos.
Confident of her abilities, Delilah keyed in on our drummers' rhythms and matched their intensity. Her belly dance moves were so well-honed that she could apply them at a moment's notice to the changing music. A year later, that melody evolved into the jazzy "The Other Side" on our "Night at the Oasis" cassette album.
Bold belly dancers like Delilah are a rare commodity. We've played for such belly dancers in Indiana and Utah, and my wife JuliAna displayed the same ability when she danced to Raja Zahr and John Bilezekjian in a past concert.
So belly dancers, take a chance! Belly dancing to live music is like taking the training wheels off your bicycle when you were little. Apply all those dance techniques you've learned in your choreographed routines, and belly dancing to live music when you have the opportunity.
You'll find that you'll stand out from the belly dancers who rely on recorded music, with an excitement level that's heightened by the interplay between a dancer and musicians. Soon, you'll be dancing on the edge!
Denis Kavemeier plays bouzouki and guitar with the Oasis band from Wisconsin.
If you liked this article, read Denis' other articles. Learn about belly dancing to Greek music in "Belly Dance the Greek Way". "How To Prepare Music for Your Dance Show" details how to record your belly dancing music for performance.
Return to section page about the belly dancing articles.