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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

3 Basic Tips for Selecting Music for Belly Dance Performances


By Saqra




Three Basic Tips

Selecting music for belly dance performances can be very difficult. The sheer quantity of music that is now available can be overwhelming to sort through.

Musical taste is a very personal thing, and music is tremendously important because it shapes an entire dance performance. You are the visual embodiment of the music, and you are the video to the music's audio. So, the music certainly better change the way your performance looks!

So, here are three basic tips.

1. Strong Pieces

When looking for music, look for strong pieces that are compelling in some fashion. Look for music that contains one (or more) of these characteristics:

  1. The music is catchy and memorable.
  2. It makes you involuntarily nod along.
  3. It has a surprise stop or twist to it that gets your attention.
  4. It is especially emotional....

If the music is interesting without a dancer, then it is going to be that much better to dance with, so follow your first impression. If it catches your interest it will catch audiences' interest.

2. Your Collection

Every once in a while, listen to everything in your music collection.

Okay, yeah, I know this is next to impossible if you are a music nut job like me. My "recent acquisitions" collection alone contains over 3 days' worth of music. But try to find a way to systematically listen to the music you already own. One idea is to take all the albums that start with 'A', put them on your MP3 player or phone, and run through them in order as you do other things. Another option is to grab a group of CDs, and don't listen to anything else until you have listened to each of them and noted any compelling tunes.

Try to resist finding out what everyone else is dancing to and using Internet radio to find new material until after you have reviewed what you already have in your collection. Otherwise, you will never discover great music that you have already failed to notice.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Keith Darkchilde, Fairbanks, Alaska.


3. Make it Easy to Retrieve

Before handheld music devices (MP3 players and phones) became omnipresent, I used to copy every song that got my attention onto a CD by itself. On the disk I would write the name of the song, artist, and album name. I would include comments with dance notes: "Veil?" "Saidi" "Drum solo with 9/8" "Good for entrance" etc. Then I would put it into a special box.

I found that if I discovered what I thought was a great piece of music, and if I worked with it enthusiastically, often the next time I played it, the song didn't inspire me at all. Then I would lose track of the piece while I started all over again looking for something else. However, these selections had appealed to me once! So, I started putting them in one place along with my ideas for each. Then, when I needed music, I would go to the file and investigate what I had already saved.

Now, I have tried to do that with a special playlist, but it is very difficult to identify pieces and what you considered using them for with the minimal information you can access from a playlist. For that reason, I went back to making the CD's. I imagine you could keep a text file that describes the contents of your playlist, though.

If you're curious, before I started using CD's, I would make mix tapes in different categories. Before that, I only had about 10 albums, so it was harder to lose music.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo of Saqra by Michael Baxter, Santa Clara, California.




Closing Thought

A final thought...

Once you have decided you are going to use a piece of music, commit. There is no perfect piece with everything you want in it, so it is best to assume this is not the last dance you will ever do . Just select the music and go forward with it.

Your mileage may vary, but it beats spinning around with indecision!




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About the Author

Saqra (Seattle, Washington, USA) is a powerful dance artist and a master instructor. Her fluidity, grace, and technical skill is highlighted by her friendly demeanor and clear joy of the dance. She did not inherit the diva gene.

Saqra won titles in Belly Dance USA (Oregon), Belly Dancer of the Year (California), Belly Dancer of the Universe (California), Wiggles of the West (Nevada), and many other competitions. She was voted "Best Kept Secret of 2005" and "Instructor of the Year 2008" by readers of Zaghareet Magazine.

Saqra's journey in this dance form began in 1977 and has led her to study with many of the best dancers in the world, including in America, Canada, Turkey and Egypt. Saqra continues to travel and study both in the USA and abroad and prides herself on proper research for anything she teaches. Folklore, fakelore, and stage creativity: all three are valuable, and Saqra clearly presents for each what they actually are. Saqra is constantly expanding her expertise in the traditional ethnic forms of the dance, the modern stage variants, and the continuing evolving fusion techniques, all these areas combined keep her material fresh and current.

Saqra is widely known as an event promoter, musician, music and instructional video producer, and a registered hypnotherapist in the state of Washington. That is enough stuff to start explaining what she has been doing in belly dance since 1977. Visit her at

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Michael Baxter, Santa Clara, California. In the photo, Saqra is holding her Teacher of the Year 2008 Award from Zaghareet Magazine.

Saqra with Award



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