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Choreographing A Piece Of Bellydance Music

(The original version of the following article has been translated into French for those of you who are native speakers. Go to www.irida.fr/choregraphier.htm to check it out.)

To choreograph a piece of Bellydance music, you'll need two things:

  • A piece of music (a short piece if you're a beginner to choreographing).
  • Something to write on (either computer, or pen and paper).

For each section of music (say, about 10 seconds at a time):

  • Listen to it.
  • Experiment by Bellydancing to it several times.
  • Write down the moves that you feel go well with the music.
  • Practice that section again and again (and change the movements if you find it's not working) until you're ready for the next part of the music.
  • Repeat all of the above, around 10 seconds at a time, until you've completed the entire song.

Some tips on what to look out for when listening to Bellydance music:

  • Firstly, what kind of Bellydance music is it? Arabic? Turkish? Greek? This will give you a clue on how to dance to it.
  • Note the mood of the music - how does it make you feel?
  • What is the tabla (Arabic drum) doing?
  • What about the melody?
  • Could you (or do you want to) use zills, veil, wings, fan veils, stick, sword or tambourine in this dance?

Further tips are:

  • Do what the music ‘tells’ you to do - ie. your first instinctual response when you hear the music.
  • If you have no instinctual reaction, play it a few more times to produce a reaction. If you still have no luck, leave a blank space and fill it in later.
  • When deciding on what Bellydance moves to use, ask yourself honestly: does that move really go with the music? Does it suit the tempo and mood? Are you shimmying to music that trembles along with a shimmy or to smooth-sounding music that goes against the shimmy? Are you doing a slow movement to fast music or vice versa?
  • Ask yourself: are my arms translating easily from move to move? Does my body position translate easily from one move to the next? Making drastic changes in body and arm positions can take away from your choreography. Having said that, you can make drastic transitions look smooth if they go well with the music and are practiced enough to look effortless. Put a lot of thought into this aspect of your choreography - it can make all the difference between creating magic in motion versus a clunky-looking dance.
  • Write down the choreography as you go. You will most certainly forget if you don’t and be really peeved later on. So whatever moves you decide to do, write them down immediately.

Keep in mind:

  • You don't have to do every move you’ve ever learnt during that one song. If it’s your first try at choreography, half a dozen moves will suffice. If you're a beyond beginner at choreographing Bellydance music, then take the number up to a dozen moves. If you're an intermediate level choreographer, double that to two dozen. If you're an advanced Bellydancer, you could even take it as far as doing a new move every four counts.
  • Beginners, please note: music repeats itself and there’s nothing wrong with repeating yourself in the same way the music does. This can in fact, add to the dancing as it can give it some continuity and form. Just as an essay has an introduction, body and conclusion, so does a piece of music and so could your dancing. Your choreographies will get more complex as you get more practiced at creating them but, to begin with, don't fret about some repetition.
  • Consider arm position as you're choreographing, because what your arms do makes a tremendous difference to your Bellydancing. Beautiful hands and arms are, in some ways, harder to master than body movement, and is why precise and elegant arm carriage can make or break a Bellydance performance.

To master your choreography:

  • Practice again and again and again and again (with notes in hand to begin with).
  • As you practice, make changes if you think that something doesn't feel quite right.
  • Practice to the point where you don't need your notes.
  • Then practice to the point where you don't even need the music to dance the entire choreography from start to finish. To achieve this, listen to the piece of music you're choreographing even when you're not physically practicing it. Listen to it until you know it off by heart, inside out, and upside down. (And, yes, I'm totally serious about this.)

Choreographing a piece of Bellydance music and learning the choreography to perfection is a long process, no doubt about it. But don’t be daunted, because the more you choreograph different pieces of music the easier it gets and the quicker the process becomes. And it gets more and more fun too!

Another note about choosing music: a Bellydance student once wrote to me requesting that I name some pieces of music that a beginner may want to start with. Initially it sounded like a good idea, but after carefully considering it, I came to the conclusion that by doing this I'd be doing budding choreographers a great disservice. That's because the most important factor in picking a piece of Bellydance music to choreograph is really, really liking that piece of music, and that's something I could never choose for anyone else.

Anyway, I hope the above was helpful, and happy choreographing!

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SAY NO TO PUPPY MILLS! SAY NO TO ANIMALS IN PETSHOPS! SAY NO TO BREEDERS!

Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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