The Blog

Making the Most of Your Belly Dance Music

Around this time of year, I get the urge to clean out things and get rid of what I no longer have use for. I literally spent 8 straight hours ripping my bedroom apart this week.  I even vacuumed under that bed – take that dust bunnies!  Not only did I clear my room of useless clutter that just got in the way, I found things I had long forgotten I owned or that I had thought were lost – like my favorite tweezers!  The big payoff for me is waking up in my refreshed and organized space in the morning. My first sight is a pleasant accomplishment that sets the tone for a good day.

One thing I never get rid of however, is music, especially since these days it’s digital and takes up no space. But I DO take some time to go through it once or twice a year – the payoff is just as real!

These tips are based on using iTunes, but most music library programs have similar characteristics.

An example of ratings and comments from my iTunes library.

An example of ratings and comments from my iTunes library.

Categorize your music by how you USE it.

Do you have all your belly dance music in one category? I used to years ago. 80% of my catalog was one category! That didn’t help to narrow things down at all. Now I categorize my music by how I use it. I have categories for entrance and exit music for shows, drum solos, Saidi, Khaleegy, drill music for teaching, etc.  This makes finding what I need a snap.

Use the “last played” sorting option.

I truly believe the 80/20 rule applies to belly dance music. Without intervention, I would use 20% of my music collection 80% of the time simply because they are my favorites for performance or are really effective for class drills. While that gets the job done, it doesn’t keep things fresh.

Try sorting your collection by play history with the most recently played at the bottom of the list. When you are reading email,  cleaning or otherwise putzing about the house, play it from the top. You’ll unearth songs you didn’t even know you had – and may be perfect for a show, class or your next choreography!

Use the music rating system.

When I’m listening to my least played music, I give it a rating. The rating system helps me find those standbys I love very quickly, but also reminds me of the good stuff I’ve turned up when I go looking for new combo music for DBQ video segments or the next student piece I’m writing.

Be a Comment Queen!

If your program has a comments or notes entry like iTunes does, use it to your advantage. I add info like the predominant rhythm, the “feel” of the music or even the general idea of the song lyrics so I don’t use a song about heartbreak at a wedding reception! For example, if I’m doing Chiftitelli zill drills in class, I look in my Drill Music category, then scan the comments for Chiftitelli – there it is! Another example – I have a TON of Saidi music. Some of it is very modern and some is very heavy and folksy, I keep notes on the “feel” of the music so I can find what I need quickly and easily.

Use playlists creatively.

Of course I keep playlists of party shows, holiday-themed shows, shows that include props and all the workshop topics I teach. Sometimes I use them as is, sometimes I swap out a song or two to keep things fresh. They are in a constant state of musical evolution.  I also use playlists as reminders and personal study guides. I have a playlist of interesting songs I’ve found and want to get to know better.

I usually turn these up during my “excavation” of the least played items or when I buy a new CD and a track  piques my interest.  Another handy playlist is the “I’d like to choreograph this someday” list. Sometimes I find a song I think I’d like to write choreography to – for myself or my belly dance students – but I don’t have an upcoming project at the time. One the list it goes. When the time comes, I have some pre-screened ideas ready to check out.


What tips and tricks do you use to organize your digital music collection? Share them in the comments below…

December 29, 2014 3 Comments

My Crazy Dance Partner..or What I Learned from a Turkish Drop

I have a crazy dance partner.  I could describe her for you, but I think you’ll get a better sense of our relationship from the tale of a choreography in the making…

We had a drum solo from the prior season, but she was tired of it and was itching for a new one. She’s like that – once it’s done, she’s often done with it. I’m thinking, it’s finally super-smooth and polished let’s get some mileage out of all that work. She wanted to move on.  I held out for a while then agreed to start a new one.

We picked music, which is usually the easy part.  She was sold on the one that had the cool gong sound at the end. Honestly, I think the whole solo could have been mediocre, but the gong just did it for her. I liked the whole thing, and could live with the gong – decision made.

We played with some ideas for the beginning and everything was going fine. During  this phase, I happened to see a video of two tribal dancers on Facebook. They had some really interesting shapes and ways of moving around each other that I thought might inspire some ideas for our piece, so I sent her the link. They also happened to be doing a combo that had a Turkish drop that came up into some floorwork, but that wasn’t the point of sending it.

I hit the send button and heard a huge GONG then lighting struck. “Oh, #$%^! She’s gonna want to do a Turkish drop!”  At our next rehearsal she announced, “You know what we should do on the gong?” I turned away and winced because I knew what was coming. “A Turkish drop – it’ll be AWESOME!” I know her too well.

“No. There will be no Turkish drops.” I answered. I explained the risk of damage to the occipital nerve if you hit your head, not to mention the stress on the knees, the ACL in particular. I spent 5 years and an awful lot of yet-to-be-paid-back money to learn about athletic injury and how to avoid it. Wantonly throwing oneself on the ground was a risk not worth the “wow factor.” She pouted. Over the next week I came up with other arguments in support of my position. For example, she had health insurance and I didn’t. I dance Egyptian style, why should I do a Turkish drop?

All of this was happening during the winter Olympics. A week or two later I was at the gym on the elliptical trainer. The sports channel was showing ski jumpers. I watched and thought about the level of insanity required to fling your body into the air on a mountain with skis to complicate the landing process. It was amazing to watch, and somehow the thought crept into my head that if they played it safe all the time, they wouldn’t be doing those amazing things. At the next rehearsal, she tried again and I said “OK, we’ll do a Turkish drop.” I wish I had taken a picture of her face at that moment.

The gap in our approach still wasn’t entirely bridged. I told her we needed to strengthen this and stretch that to do it safely. She just wanted to fling herself down there – right now. Me – I trained, and most importantly,  I had to talk myself into it. To be quite precise, I had to “spin myself” into it.

We hit the decks at the end of an 8 count spin. For me, the drop didn’t happen on 8. It began with the spin. When I started to turn, I had committed to the floor. It’s like a cliff diver in free fall before hitting the water – there’s no turning back. If I didn’t look at it that way, I don’t think I’d have ever done it and it’s like that every time.

In the end, this story isn’t really about a Turkish drop. It’s about having a dance partner that is in some ways your polar opposite. We have enough common ground in style and musical taste to make a good dance pair, but personality-wise our differences are more complementary than similar. She pushes me past my borders. I keep her feet on the ground.

Right now she’s off hiking the mountains of Peru – she does stuff like that. I can’t wait for her to get back so we can start our next choreography adventure.

July 28, 2010 6 Comments