Choosing what music to use for a performance can be really overwhelming. Ultimately it comes down to the intention(s) of my performance. For me it helps to answer some questions before I even dive into my music library. I’ll share them here and I’ll share answers for both pieces I’m going to be creating for Bellydancer of the Year.
Step One: Ask Questions
These questions might inspire deeper level questions, this exercise is a good launching off point for understanding “why” I want to perform a particular dance. When I answer these questions, I do it as a free write, I allow all thoughts to flow without worrying about them being accurate or “right”. Then I use the answers as a guide to discern what choices I’ll make.
What do I want to express?
Is there a feeling tone I want to convey?
Is there a theme/story to share?
What technique do I want to demonstrate?
What do I do really well?
What do I need to improve?
Step Two: Get Answers
Belly Dancer of the Year Category – Must be Middle Eastern Music
What do I want to express? I want to express that I’m comfortable in my body. I’ve reached a point in my life that I know myself really well, I want that to show in my dancing. I want to be fun, vibrant, approachable, and powerful. I want to express confidence that comes from my authentic self. I want to share the joy that dance brings me. I want to express my gratitude and love for this dance form. I want to be grounded while performing, to give the sense that I’m not in a hurry, good things come to those who wait. I want to be the yummy glass of wine that gets savored. I want to express the feeling of being in a warm bath and being fully relaxed. I want to be fully realized in my dancing and have those witnessing able to receive and reciprocate their appreciation.
Is there a feeling tone I want to convey? Confidence, grounded-ness, exuberance tempered with being willing to wait. Sassy, attitude, not giving any fucks. Playful, joy, sparkle from the soul. Freedom of dancing like no one is watching. Carefree, no consequences, allowance, freedom. The feeling that I have arrived at a point in my dancing where I know what I’m doing and it’s instinctual to connect to the music.
Is there a theme/story to share? Celebrating my relationship with this dance form, how I’ve grown, fallen in love, and share it with others.
What technique (s) do I want to demonstrate? Juicy baladi, strong isolations, subtle natural feeling movement, gorgeous lines, relaxed yet strong posture.
What do I do really well? Shimmy, figure 8’s and circles with hips, dance flat-footed, emote, graceful arms, improvisation, musicality, relaxed on stage.
What do I want to improve? Chest and spine fluidity, finding stillness, staging, travelling shimmies and hip work, upper body posture (opening shoulders), ankle and leg strength, turns/spins
Fusion Dancer of the Year Category – Any type of music, at least 50% Belly Dance vocabulary
What do I want to express? Confidence, power, inspiration to older dancers. I want to express the potential of letting go into the song/music and the power that comes from that exploration. And all the answers to this question for the Belly Dancer of the Year category.
Is there a feeling tone I want to convey? With time, patience, curiosity, willingness, and looking for inspiration in unexpected places, I can create amazing dance art. Dance is a tool for transformation and exploring the experiences I’ve had in life.
Is there a theme/story to share? Celebration, transformation, being carried along by the music. Freedom. That I am a skilled fusion dancer as well as a traditional styled dancer.
What technique do I want to demonstrate? Ability to fuse fluidly the dance forms I integrate with belly dance.
What do I do really well? Strong musicality and improvisation. Shimmies, figure 8’s and circles with hips, chest isolation, gaze, powerful & confident arms and hands.
What do I want to improve? Chest and spine fluidity, finding stillness, staging, travelling shimmies and hip work, upper body posture (opening shoulders), ankle and leg strength, turns/spins, level changes.
Step Three: The Essence
Looking over my answers I create an “elevator speech” that captures the core of what I want to achieve with the performance. Think short commercial message that is easy to understand.
Belly Dancer of the Year – Strong, relaxed, joyful, demonstration of traditional belly dance technique that is enjoyable for the audience to watch.
Fusion Dancer of the Year – Innovative, inspiring, fusion performance that follows a story arc of transformation while showcasing my strengths as a dancer.
Step Four: Musical Choices
Now that I’ve honed in on the essence of both of the pieces, I can explore my music library for songs & music that fit what I want to express and achieve. I already have one strong contender for Belly Dancer of the Year category, I will choose some others and then dance through them to find out if they are a fit. I don’t have any choices yet for Fusion, so I’m keeping my ears open to the songs/music that makes sense.
Even if the musical choices don’t fully fit the time allowance I have for performing, I will keep it in consideration. Editing music is an option and I have plenty of time to get that sorted out. For now I will create playlists and begin the process of identifying what fits well.