THE MUSICIAN AND THE BELLY DANCER
by Adam Burke
I am a musician, not a dancer. Most belly dancers I have met regard themselves as primarily dancers rather than musicians. Though these distinctions seem clear on the surface, I am not convinced that a certain line can be drawn between the musician and the dancer. While, by definition, a "musician" is one who plays a musical instrument, and a "dancer" is one who moves her or his body (usually in time to music), it seems to me that it could be just as correct to say that a dancer is one whose "musical" instrument is the human body, while a musician is one who "dances" in unison with a musical instrument. Such word play may bring amusement, but I have a more serious point to offer: The interface between the musician and the dancer is one which demands careful consideration, especially as it relates to live performance together.
Historically, the two groups have shared many a stage. Indeed, the most ideal situation for dancers and musicians is to work together in performance, because each form enhances the expressive power of the other. This seems to be the preference of most belly dancers, and it affords the musicians the pleasure of putting their music to good use! For the audience, the performance generates more interest and enjoyment as a result of this cooperative and cohesive unit.
Though the dance may be seen as an expression of music, as suggested above, in the tradition of belly dance the dancer may become a part of the actual musical element of the performance when incorporating the zills. The high range, tonal quality and percussive capabilities of the finger cymbals add an important element to the overall musical presentation, as well as to showcase more completely the talents of the dancer. Just as the body moves in time to the rhythms, so do the fingers, and the effect can be very powerful.
In any musical ensemble, coordination amongst the players is essential, not only for a good performance, but for the music to reach its full potential. It has long been known by musicians that when a group of players "lock in together," the music can transport themselves and their listeners beyond space -- if not time -- and provide an exhilarating experience for all involved. So, when a dancer plays the zils in time with the dance and with the music, the art form reaches great heights of beauty. And when the music of the dance is live, cohesion among the performers greatly enhances the quality of the show.
Many belly dancers have rarely had the opportunity to dance with live musicians. I suspect that, because of this, these dancers see their zills more as an element of the dance than as an element of the music to which they are dancing. From the seat of the musician, however, the zills will be heard primarily as an addition to the music and only secondarily as an element of the dance.
The musician must listen to all of the rhythmic or percussive aspects of the music while playing in order to ensure that the music remains "tight," or cohesive. The dancer must listen to the music in order to develop the movement of the dance. While the musicians may play on throughout the performance with full attention to the music alone, the dancer must pay close attention to both the dance and the music, especially when playing along on the zills.
The belly dancer expresses music through the very movements of the body in the dance. And when a particular musical instrument -- such as the zills -- becomes an extension of this music, just as in any musical ensemble, the importance of unity in the timing becomes paramount for the greatest beauty to find its expression.
Results 1 to 1 of 1
08-03-2011 08:15 AM #1
- Join Date
- May 2000
- Blog Entries
The Musician and the Belly Dancer
By nataliadance in forum Belly Dance/Work OpportunitiesReplies: 0Last Post: 03-18-2011, 07:57 PM
By nataliadance in forum Belly Dance Performer ListingsReplies: 0Last Post: 02-21-2011, 12:31 AM
By aziyade in forum Music Traditions & StylesReplies: 11Last Post: 02-09-2010, 01:14 PM