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April 26, 2013

Is it Wrong to Belly Dance to Non M.E Music?

Belly dancing to non middle eastern music
Belly dancing to non middle eastern music
I recently recived this question from a fellow belly dancer Lara: Hi Jenifer! I really enjoy your blog and I was wondering what are your thoughts to bellydancing to non traditional belly dance music. Not stepping too far away ie no heavy metal or hip hop or anything like that! But I have found a few slow songs I like with a lot of feeling but without the drum beats I think it might be hard as a beginner to come up with a solo piece.

I will be honest, I was not too excited about classical belly dance music when I first started. As a beginner, I came to belly dance with only the fitness and community aspect in mind. I would arrive to class, and all the stress would disappear.

Why do I mention this? Because as a beginner I was so excited to just shake my hips that slowing things down and listening to repetitive, long, and classical pieces did not draw my attention. 

Belly dancing to non-middle eastern music, or remixed/upbeat tempo’d classics was what it was all about in the beginning for me because it is was the closest to my taste in music outside of belly dance ( I love me some salsa and reggeaton).

A Few Tips

In my own opinion, I feel that belly dancing to non-middle eastern music is fine as long as a few basic conditions are met:

1. If it has lyrics, ensure you know the song is respectful, utilizes no foul language, or has any sexual connotations or makes no sense to what your piece is trying to convey

2. Are you an oriental or tribal/fusion style dancer? I only mention this because let us be real, when you dance an oriental piece, it is “expected” to have that “authentic” flare to it. Dancing oriental style to a metal tune will not be as widely accepted as a tribal style or fusion style dancer (who are inherently american/modern and do not have to conform as much).
All In all, we can dance to anything as dancers, but the level of importance of how closely to maintain  the “authenticity” of belly dance varies on whether you are oriental, tribal, or fusion style. So keep this mind. Maybe you decide to not care, but at least be aware of this.

3. Understand that when you Belly Dance you are representing a culture. That said there as some limits to how far you can stray in song choice. We have dancers who belly dance to hip hop, samba, heavy metal, ballet suites, and etc… but keep in mind that if you are belly dancing to this, a fusion of disciplines will tend to make more sense to the audience.

Straight belly dancing to a completely non belly dance song, is frowned upon by many arabs. Sorry but I will be honest. Fusion is gorgeous (i am a huge fan), but there are still many out there who will raise an eyebrow and say “it is not belly dancing”,  even if your technique is flawless.

4. Who is your audience? Like I mentioned, dancing belly fusion for a more traditional arab audience probably won’t sit well. Always ensure your music matches the audience. There are songs I LOVE but would never perform in public for an audience because either a) it could offend lol b) the song would probably put a few people to sleep or c) the unique audience that would appreciate this music, has not hired me yet.

In Conclusion

As I am growing older, I am appreciating the classics and even dancing to them at arab parties and soon for appropriate events. Not all classics are “boring”. I thought they were my first year of belly dancing, but fast forward 6.5yrs later and I am jamming out to them in my car lol! 

Our tastes change, and our dance styles change, so always be open minded. Select music that speaks to you, and make sure to always have a clear message of what you are trying to convey with the music you choose as a belly dancer.

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