I’m writing a second installment of my review series, this time focusing on the JWAAD Belly Dance Training ‘Understanding Music’ course I just completed. I previously wrote about the JWAAD ‘Understanding Safety’ course and how much I enjoyed that, and the ‘Understanding Music’ course was the same for me in terms of enjoyment and how much I learned. Like the safety course, it’s accredited to the equivalent of a UK A-Level in complexity which indicates the quality and depth of the course. To note, I was in the last cohort of the fully live course before it was launched as hybrid online course with supplemental live workshops, so my experience differs slightly to the current course offering.
During the course we covered a vast array of information relating to belly dance music, including musical instruments, rhythms, musical styles, and key singers and composers in belly dance music for Middle Eastern and fusion styles. We had formal teaching sessions covering the information and dance classes covering each of the key topics, plus assignments on musical instruments, musical styles, rhythms, and key singers and composers. While the assignments were difficult, they helped 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) which really helped me understand how to dance to different musical instruments. We had a dance class on dancing to different musical styles which 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, which while difficult for me because I’m not a fusion specialist, really gave me an understanding of how fusion dance evolved from the American cabaret style to fuse with other influences and become 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 and practiced 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! While I found it a bit scary to be dancing on my own with the class watching, it was a fantastic opportunity that doesn’t come along in the UK very often, and 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, particularly 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.