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The Language of Bellydance – Another Take

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We often liken our dance to a language. In class, we explore the idea that we are learning individual letters when we drill, individual words when we learn moves, and then as we learn to dance we are stringing those words together into sentences, and finally as a group we learn to tell a story or sing a song together.

The gorgeous Shems (pic right) wrote a wonderfully detailed article exploring this common dance metaphor, digging deeply into the evolution of a dancer throughout their studies. Over on Gilded Serpent you can read the full article. Some meaty tasters:

“Executing each movement properly is like pronouncing a word properly. Like some words are more difficult to pronounce than others, some movements in dance are more difficult to execute.

Often dancers who master some difficult movements begin to think of themselves as very advanced dancers, but like a child who has learned some complex adult words; these dancers may not yet understand how to use them properly in a dance sentence. Moreover, they are even further from creating a truly meaningful dialogue.”


“Building Sentences…
Musicality begins with dancing on beat. This beat is the rhythm of the language, its regular cadence.  A dancer wants to avoid stuttering stops and starts. She wants to emphasize the right syllables. She needs to learn how to place her words in the right order to create a complete sentence: capitalizing at the beginning and punctuating at the end.  She needs to understand where a musical phrase begins and ends…

Going beyond basic conversation, delivering polished and rehearsed speeches and being able to organize one’s thoughts when speaking off the cuff are advanced skills in language, as are its partners in dance: choreography and improvisation.


“Proper Grammar and Diction…

A child reaches a point where she knows several words, can build sentences, and can communicate pretty well, but she makes some grammatical errors, mispronounces certain words, or makes punctuation mistakes. Poor grammar in dance might mean the dancer forgets to point her toes, or maintain energy in her arms and hands. Perhaps she talks in sentence fragments, leaving a movement or a musical phrase unfinished. Her posture may be slightly off, her body angle may be awkward, or she may transition poorly between movements. Perhaps she doesn’t dare make eye contact as she speaks to you, or her facial expressions reveal mistakes or conflict with the emotion of her dance. She might jump from idea to idea so quickly, she loses all continuity. Or maybe she repeats to the point of painful monotony.

These little things often go unnoticed by a dancer and are sometimes forgotten in training. But from the audience’s perspective, they set one dancer distinctly apart from another.”

This seems like a lot but the article has so much more!!  Go check it out and let me know what you think in the comments! 

Follow Shay:

Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

2 Responses

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    Great article!

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    What a thought provoking article! This is so where I’m at – I’ve got the words but they’re not making proper sentences yet!

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