I did promise music posts, right?
So, I was thinking about music (as I often do)...
I have pretty strong feelings about the use of music in dance, particularly when it comes to performing to music to which you've already seen someone else dance. I'm not talking about coincidental use of music that someone else has used, but more along the lines of "Ooh, [Insert name of Famous Dancer or Dancer on YouTube] used this song, and it's great, so I'm going to dance to it too!"
I understand that not everyone agrees with me on my beliefs about music usage. Some people believe that music, regardless of who you've seen dance to it, is fair game. I don't. (And I understand that might not be a very popular opinion, but this blog isn't for popular opinions... Hehe...)
To me, it's an issue of originality and hard work.
I believe music is so inherently part of this dance that the music to which we choose to perform is an extension of our dance and our identity.
I feel that the music a dancer chooses is a part of her because it speaks to her on an emotional level, and she has chosen to use that music to express an intimate part of her emotions and expression. That dancer's music therefore becomes a part of her physical self for that performance (and probably for longer), and she probably worked very hard to find that music, most likely sampling hundreds of songs and purchasing dozens of CDs. Learning a new song takes time and dedication. Finding music takes even more time and probably a good chunk of change.
Music is a financial and emotional investment. I feel like when a dancer performs to a song that she's seen someone else perform to on YouTube, she's not putting in the same investment into her dance that the original dancer did. I also feel that if that dancer performs similarly to the dancer who originally used that music, the dancer is selling her own creativity short by imitating someone else.
Unique music has the power to bring out unique elements of your personality, style, and expression.
There are, however, times when I don't think using "someone else's music" is a bad thing. I've determined that it's OK for you to use music someone else has used if...
- You've asked permission of the dancer using the song if it's OK if you use it as well.
- The music is ubiquitous within the community. For tribal bellydance, ubiquitous artists would be musicians like Helm, Solace, Gypsy Caravan, Raquy and the Cavemen, Maduro, Beats Antique, and Pentaphobe. As more dancers perform, more songs and artists are becoming "standards" of the genre... songs that come to mind are "Proper Hoodidge" by Amon Tobin and a recent new addition to the scene, "Ongyilkos Vasarnap" by Venetian Snares (although as recently as 2005, this song was not a tribal bellydance "standard"). (I believe that it's important to be aware of who these artists are, as many of them make music for dancers or at least with dancers in mind. Give them a little love.) For oriental and cabaret dancers, there are far more "standards" such as "Shashkin", "Alf Layla Wa Layla", "Aziza", "Mishaal", and many more.
- Your performance is VERY different from the dancer who originally danced to that particular song. This generally means that you'll be dancing a different style as the original or using different props.
- The original dancer taught a choreography to that music in a workshop and gave the students permission to perform it elsewhere with credit to the choreographer.
Sometimes it may seem safer to dance to music you know that another dancer has used successfully... That music is already audience-tested and approved. But you'll grow more as an artist if you take a little risk and perform to music that you've never heard anyone else use. Chances are your performance will be a little more heartfelt, and it will certainly be a unique expression of YOU as an artist and dancer.