Exploring Rhythm by Renee Szudy
As we prepare for SPRING!!, we are excited to learn more about the Guild’s SPECTACULAR workshops through interviews with our four instructors. Renee's workshop is “Exploring Rhythm.” It is scheduled for Sunday, May 23 at 12 (noon) to 2 pm CT.
This workshop will focus on identifying and dancing to a selection of popular Egyptian rhythms. We will explore different approaches to interpreting drumming patterns and ways of adapting various movements to fit these patterns, learning 2-3 movement combinations for each rhythm.
Participants will have the opportunity to create their own movement sequences and string combinations together into a short, simple drum solo movement sequence. This will not be a drum solo choreography suitable for performance; rather, it is intended as an exercise in rhythmic interpretation. If it can be arranged, the workshop will include live musical accompaniment for the second half of the workshop, which is very likely to occur. (Recommended for an Intermediate Level dancer for best experience.)
Maqsuum, Falaahii, Baladi… are some of the Egyptian rhythms that have enchanted the world through Middle Eastern dance. As a performer, identifying the rhythm, matching the mood and interpreting the movement to the musical piece is key to elevating the performance experience, especially with live music.
Renee has been mastering Egyptian Rhythms for the past 25 years and in this sneak peek interview she shares with us how she explores Egyptian rhythms in her choreographies:
There’s listening “in passing” to music – for example, while driving in the car to simply enjoy it. Then there’s listening to music to find rhythms to reflect in our dance moves or plan a choreography. How do you adjust your listening to find the rhythms?
If I am listening to music for dancing, I like to start by playing around with movement while listening/feeling it. If I am inspired by a song in this process, then I will try to devote time to really studying the structure and composition--the counts of each section, the various rhythms and melodies, and the instrumentation. The best way for me to do this is to listen to the piece on a headset while on a walk. That way, I don't start dancing and lose my focus! It also helps me to write out the song by count to the best of my (limited) musical abilities.
When you are listening to identify the rhythms, how do you break them down?
My natural inclination is to follow the "dums," because they are impossible to miss and such a distinct sound in Egyptian tabla, AND then listen to the "teks," of course. That is my basis for rhythmic identification. I am a beginner drummer and have learned slightly more sophisticated ways for understanding and breaking down rhythms in drum lessons, but those "dums" are still my best first clue!
I recommend that Middle Eastern dancers take some lessons in Egyptian tabla, because it helped me so much with identifying rhythms and appreciating our drummers. Drumming is way harder than it looks!
What are your favorite rhythms to dance to?
Saidi is my absolute favorite rhythm, followed by Malfouf. Those two are particularly inspirational to me; most songs I dance to have the Saidi rhythm in them somewhere! Although, I have honestly never heard an Arabic rhythm I didn't like and I still have many to learn.
Does the rhythm dictate the mood of a dance? How do you determine the mood?
I would say the rhythm strongly influences the mood, but there are so many elements that create the mood of a song and dance. The percussive instruments, tempo, volume, techniques and accents the drummer(s) use(s) can all alter the mood of the music, even within the same rhythmic pattern. Rhythmic changes are always interesting and can be very dynamic. And then there is the other instrumentation and the melodies to tune in to, as well.
What story or experience would you like to share that shows how you have grown in your ability to play with rhythms?
I don't have a specific story to share about this, but she said it is one of those things that always changes and remains constant at the same time. I learn from teachers and watch performers to see their ways of interpreting the music.
I try new things and go through different phases and always seem to come back to wanting to strongly articulate those "dums" with movement--especially those heavy double "dums" in the second part of the Saidi rhythm. It is just so much fun to me!
Save the date and plan to register!
You’re invited to join Renee on May 23 at 12 noon to 2 pm CT to learn more about rhythms!
Spring Spectacular Workshops are now open for registration! Guild members enjoy discounted pricing!