Musical interpretation is what dance in any style in the world is all about.
In Egyptian dance which is a women’s solo dance you will find that translation of the music is the most important angle to approach in any performance. The woman dancing is supposed to be moved by the music and simulate the music with her movements. This allows the woman a lot of freedom to express herself.
When a woman dances in Egypt, professionally or just at home, their main interest is in the translation of the music and the way they feel about it. There is no such thing as trendy steps or fashionable steps or competitions of who has the latest MODA in movement. Yes, some see another dancer dancing and may pick an idea here or there, but they only dance how the music makes them move.
When I look at what is being named as Egyptian Dance around the world today, it is noticeable that there are so many other influences that shadow the true essence of that natural Egyptian style.
In the western culture, we tend to standardize the movements in order to make it teachable and uniform. This is a good thing as it makes learning possible for a dancer. But it also creates a lack of individuality and the innovation level is only within a certain limit dictated by the moves.
This makes a choreographer or a dancer repeat the same type so moves despite the fact that it does not fit with the music and it gets reduced from dancing the melody to only dancing the actual pulse of the beat, which does not even pay attention to the rhythm.
There are basic movements which are “THE” movements that make Egyptian dance Egyptian. And these are the foundation for everything we do in this art form. Egyptian dancers may have 1 or 2 or even 3 steps that are particular to them which is different and differentiates them from other dancers, but this never affects takes away their foundation and does not over-colour their roots.
These basic movements are used in their choreographies and dance routines with some added artistically interpretive other moves that will portray the composition being danced. However this may seem as they are repeating themselves, this is just them dancing their own dance.
Don’t forget that, to the Egyptian and middle Easter women, this is just dancing. They don’t call it belly dancing or oriental dancing; to them it is just dancing using their traditional and basic steps. We in the west call it belly dance they don’t.
Years ago, having watched all the” Stars of Egypt “ on the black and white films that Hossam put together, and seen almost every dancer in Egypt, I asked myself:
How do they manage to all be dancing the same basic steps and still be so individual in the art form?
Two answers came to my mind:
1. No 2 dancers hear the music the same way.
2. No 2 bodies are the same and can move identically.
I also found that in Egyptian dance there are dance steps that are done to portray only the rhythm and movements to portray and interpret the melody. There is a basic group of movements that form the basic vocabulary used to portray the melodic side of the composition. This gives us a vast ocean of variations and possibilities which when chosen by any dancer gives them individuality, as each dancer will be moved soulfully in a different way from the other dancers.
Like everyone else, I hear the music differently and in my own way and therefore when I dance I do my best to portray this feeling I get from the music. So they can experience my personal feeling toward that music. This is the way I approach the music.
When we, western dancers are dancing, we have the space and freedom to introduce, in appropriate times and according to the music, our previous personal dance experience and training as well as cultural background. However, without knowledge of the basic Egyptian movements and fundamental techniques it could not be called Egyptian dance. The balance of influences and essence is in the hands of the dancer and she will only achieve a good balance when she understands what the components of music are, particularly Egyptian dance compositions.
The basics are not many, but they can be made to be anything you can want them to be,
if you know them well.
A hip drop can be presented in 100’s of different ways and from various angles, and Egyptian Walk
can be done to fit several different accents in different rhythms and it will look and feel completely different. Figures of 8 when done in a way to truly interpret the music will never be done in the same sequence and create the same shapes so it will never be a repeated motion. (Please refer to the article “Drumming 4 Dancers”, by Hossam Ramzy, available in Portuguese on the articles section).
Now talking about how to achieve this musicality, let’s look at what each instrument portrays.
Each instrument has its own special quality and emotional flow that creates a certain effect.
Let’s take a nay flute as an example. What is the quality of the sound of a wind instrument? Well, it’s says it on description… wind, air, fluidity, flying, spiritual sounding…..
Fluid arms movements, flowing spins, smooth travelling camel, light and elevated figures of 8, circles and undulations, shoulder movements could be used to portray the characteristics of this instrument. One figure of 8 can become at least 4 different ones if you do it in different sizes and speed according to the music. Each arm move with a different posture or position will be seen as a new item being presented. So, the possibilities are endless and a basic vocabulary of steps becomes a very rich, varied and creative at the same time as being highly technical.
With a violin all the same steps and motions as the flute can be done, but the character of this instrument is very different. A violin can be dramatic, can be melancholic and sad, and can be happy and playful, but always with an intensity that is not found in the flute sounds. So imagine all the moves you have done to the flute in such a fluid, light and ethereal manner, now done to the violin, and in an intense dramatic and very feminine way and more grounded in manner with the use of more hips than arms to create this dramatic emotion.
You get a completely new technique every time you dance to a different instrument.
I find extremely exciting when I am choosing a new composition to dance to because I will them choose which beautiful instruments I am going to be this time. Also, the music dictates to me which costume can I wear and sometimes I find myself designing a new costume that will flow clearly through that composition and will also allow me the freedom and conform to be those instruments when I am dancing.
What I find very frustrating in the world of Egyptian dance today is that the subject of dance as an art form itself is not paid any attention to. There is a basic lack of knowledge of dance itself and sometimes it looks embracing to see these people doing something completely dis-related to the music and calling it dancing. A basic thing such as what technique actually means, (A skilful or efficient way of doing or achieving something) gets misunderstood and defined as how many steps one knows and how difficult is to do them.
A dancer will be as good as she can hear the music and has enough technical ability to portray it.
Given all the choices in the world I would always go for the emotional aspect of the music and I will chose just enough of my technical expertise to portray how beautiful this music is, not portray what a capable dancer I am. I know my own capabilities and I know that my talent lies in my ability to translate the music to my audience.
Thank you for listening,