My Mixed Bag of Thoughts on Choreography

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Thoughts on Belly Dance Choreography, Leyla Najmas Belly Dance BlogWorking with many students has given me an inside look at the ins and outs of structuring an inspired thought into movement. It’s not always easy to place movement into the body the way we see it in our heads. Head to body is the key here and sometimes they don’t get along.

I have often wondered why dancers who are solo performers dance to music with In the Box choreography. As a soloist there are so many things we can get away with on stage that a troupe can’t. We can change up our choreography at a moments notice with no one the wiser. We can pull out of ourselves those questionable moves and make them look like poetic motion. We can engage the audience in a way that allows for them to participate in our show and become part to the choreography.

I have done In the Box choreography in my beginning years and I always felt trapped within my own moves. In fact I remember a private party  I danced at years ago where I totally forgot my choreography making me improvise on the spot for the first time. Even though I bombed it felt pretty good and that experience changed my dancing forever. From then on I was the Spontaneous Choreography Queen and never looked back.

I understand why troupes and duets work with In the Box choreography but I always wondered why troupe directors would have their dancers start on the same hip. I would mix everybody up and have half going one way and the other half going another. I enjoy troupe performances but sometimes after seeing 3 or 4 troupe performances one after another, it’s hard to remember one from the other. I mean this goes for soloists too, after awhile we all want to see someone on stage that not only brings their moves to life but gives us something we have never seen.

The first rule of thumb is be original to yourself. I think its okay to watch videos of dancers but more often then not dancers become dependant on ideas from other dancers. If you believe enough in yourself trust in your own ideas. A good way to start is to see what your favorite moves are and put them on paper. Put on a favorite song and see what moves work best. You’ll start to see little bits and pieces of the choreographer in you emerge. Just trust in what you come up with.

Impersonating other dancers is what young/beginner dancers do which is natural because dancers usually want to copy what inspires them. But I have found that if this goes on too long that the end result will be a dancer with no individuality. Eventually as a dancer you have to understand that this dance is about how you live life. Your life’s path is not your teachers and it’s best to realize what makes you inspired but then remember you have to transform what you’ve learned into your own understanding which translates into your own movement.

“Do you not realize that the dance is the pure act of metamorphosis?”

I watched an old video that I have of Zohair Zaki and the one thing that was clear was the fact that when she was on stage, she commanded attention and her orchestra played for her not the audience. Seeing legendary dancers like her made me realize that if dancers don’t understand why they are on stage then they won’t understand the root essence of this dance form. It’s always been about feminine empowerment that tells a story in a way only women can that attracts the masses and keeps them coming back for more.

Taking the first steps even if they are baby steps are necessary to getting started on figuring out what inspired thought moves you to dance it. Maybe it’s a simple move but if you feel it let it be your way of feeling not someone else’s. The lasting impression on any stage should be that of a dancer who not only motivates her audience but leaves them wanting more. The survival of this dance is based on the breathless dancer who knows she is leaving her audience wanting more yet making them wait for the next show. It’s always about the next show!






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About Leyla Najma
Lifelong professional Belly Dancer dedicated to providing "Belly Dance Instruction That Is Easy To Understand And Learn That Connects The Dots"


4 Responses to “My Mixed Bag of Thoughts on Choreography”
  1. aflynn1a says:

    I know when I first started dancing and someone would say hey eventually you will be dancing impromptu I would have given this crazy look! But the matter of the fact is that once I knew how my body moved and started to realize everything does not have to be perfect and of course becoming more relaxed I would pick impromptu over choreograhped in the box! During a student recital in April of last year my husband played the wrong music there was no way that I could of course stop him so out on the stage I went and danced to music I had not even listened to! I was experiancing it for the first time on stage! It was my best performance!! In fact most of my solo’s that day were not choreographed and I had a lady tell me I was absolutely wonderful! She said I looked like I was in command and bigger then life I took that as a great compliment! Nowadays, I do not choreograph my solo’s and I try to be as spontanoues as I can. I sometimes will kindve choreograph certain parts. I am more comfortable now in spontanoues then in the box.

    • Leyla Najma says:

      Good Evening Najla,

      Sometimes the only way to learn to feel music is to have a blooper like the one that happened with your husband playing the wrong music. There’s a part of us, the higher self that hears music in a way that opens us up to to hidden parts of ourselves. Every time we dance, we grow and we develop a bond with music.

      And the funny thing is that I can hear all kinds of different music and dance to it the same way I hear belly dance music. It’s as if we become instruments of rhythm for all music!

      Congratulations on your performance and bravo on your ability to perform like a pro!!



  2. aflynn1a says:

    Thanks Leyla!

    By the way did you get my email about the article for the Chronicles?


    • Leyla Najma says:

      Lol! Nope not yet but I have to tell you………funny thing…….my daughter who is a wonderful writer is going to do an article from a daughters point of view having a mom as a belly dancer. She grew up literally from the womb in this dance and she and I talked about it today after my email to you. Weird how coincidental topics are!! Send the email to me again…….

      Much Hugs Dear One,