I’m writing another instalment of my review series. This time I focus on the JWAAD Belly Dance Training ‘Understanding Music’ course. I previously wrote about the JWAAD ‘Understanding Safety’ course. I enjoyed the ‘Understanding Safety’ course and learned a lot from it. The ‘Understanding Music’ course was the same for me for enjoyment and learning. Like the safety course, the music course is accredited to the equivalent of a UK A-Level in complexity. That indicates the quality and depth of the course. Note, I was on the last cohort of the fully live course. It has since been launched as an online course with supplemental live Zoom workshops. My experience differs to the current course offering. I hope that by sharing my experience, you will be inspired to learn more about the fascinating world of belly dance music!
During the course, we covered a vast array of information relating to belly dance music. This included musical instruments, rhythms, and musical styles. It also included key singers and composers for Middle Eastern and fusion styles. We had formal teaching sessions covering the information. Plus dance classes covered each of the key topics. Finally, we had assignments covering the above material. The assignments were difficult. But they did help consolidate the information and make sure you understood the material.
A real highlight for me were the dance classes. We had a dance class on dancing to taksims (improvised instrumental solos). It really helped me understand how to dance to different musical instruments. We had another dance class on dancing to different musical styles. It gave me a deeper understanding on how the musical style informs your dance. We also had a fusion dance class with a belly dance fusion dance teacher. It was difficult for me because I’m not a fusion specialist. But it gave me an understanding of how fusion dance evolved from the American cabaret style. It fused with other influences and became a unique style.
Another aspect I enjoyed was the chance to work with live music. We had dance classes where we danced with a live tabla player. We practised listening to (and dancing) the transitions between different rhythmic sections in a drum solo. I got an understanding of how the dancer and drummer work in partnership to progress through the solo. Then, we had a chance to design and perform a very short drum solo of our own with the tabla player! I found it a bit scary to be dancing on my own with the class watching. But it was a fantastic opportunity that doesn’t come along in the UK very often. It gave me the confidence that I could do it again in the future.
If you have an interest in belly dance music and would like to deepen your knowledge in this area, I would recommend the JWAAD music course. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to dance with a live tabla player. Completing the assignments and submitting a portfolio was hard work. But it helped me consolidate my learning as well as gave me a huge sense of accomplishment.