Under the (Beladi) Influence
I love beladi music. I love the way my ears are seduced by the first strains of accordion, then my hips are playfully poked by the scattered drum beats. I am willfully led down the garden path by the growing steadiness and energy till I am whirled like a dust devil in the final bars and released. Ahhhh.
Beladi music sucks me in body, mind and soul like no other kind of Middle Eastern music – and I enjoy it all, from classical to shaabi to pop. When I’m driving, it’s either NPR or my iPod coming through the speakers. If it’s my iPod it is most likely Middle Eastern music – but not Beladi. I can’t drive while listening to – it’s dangerous. It goes kind of like this…
Police officer: “Ma’am, do you know you were going 20 mph on this here freeway?”
Me: “Was I, really? I was just listening to this song – I guess I didn’t notice… I looove that slow part…”
(No, that didn’t really happen – but it could and would!)
Dancing to beladi music is like being voluntarily possessed. You let the rhythm and melody inside you and carry it in your torso. I picture it trying to get out and my torso is a stretchy bag that contains it. The melody snakes to the right and takes my hip with it, then throws a beat to the side and there I go!
My personal dance credo is “in the ears, through the heart, out the hips” and this is never more true than in beladi style. Because of the immediate and reactive nature of this dance form, it’s very awkward to teach through drills, combos and choreography. It requires some switching of tactics to intense listening and developing a vocabulary of expressive punctuation, texture and flow that can be accessed instantly as the music demands.
Beladi isn’t big and flashy with layer upon layer of complicated technique. It is not over-the-top in “Superstars” style. The general public is seeing more and more of the Big & Flashy brand of bellydance these days. I worry that they are being desensitized and should they come across a beautiful, subtle, soulful and succulent beladi performance, they will fail to appreciate it.
I appreciate it. I adore it. I just can’t drive to it, so be warned if you hear Mario Kirlis’ “Little Beladi” coming from my open window…. I may be D.U. (B.) I.