SATURDAY October 8, 2022
3:30pm - 5:00pm @ UTSA Conference Center
Class/Lect 3: The Power of Song - Engaging with Vocals as a Dancer - Debbie Smith with Nibal Malshi on vocals and Alber Baseel on percussion.

What is it: a two hour workshop exploring the role and importance of vocals and singing in Arab music, and how dancers can engage with song in a that is appropriate, responsive and enhances the emotional and kinesthetic experience of working with live music.

Why this workshop:
The primacy of the voice in Arab music cannot be overstated. It is a fundamental part of the aesthetic experience of performing and listening to music, to the extent that the word for singer in Arabic is motreb/motreba, or the “one who creates tarab”. The vocal qualities, skill, and interpretative abilities of the singer are a vessel for conveying the emotion and beauty of a song and its lyrics.

Dancers are constantly working with Arab songs. Except for instrumental pieces composed specifically for dancers, like Sitt El Hosen or Mashaal, other composed “opening” pieces, and instrumental taqasim, most other music used by dancers is either a song or an instrumental rendition of one.

However, most dancers in the United Staes and the global dance community outside the Arab world do not speak or understand Arabic. So many dancers avoid using music that has vocals for fear of offending someone or are intimidated because they don’t understand the language. On the other extreme, some dancers adhere fixedly to getting and using the “meaning” of the words to the point that they are attempting to act them out or mime them, which is destined to come across as contrived at best. In the middle are dancers who glide over the vocals, don’t hear them, or ignore them as just another “noise” when they are practicing or performing. In all these cases, the dancer is missing out on a key aesthetic and emotional aspect of working with Arab music and on an important way to deepen her interpretation and expression of the music.

So how does the dancer find the way into working with vocals? Anyone can learn how to engage with the vocals in their music in a way that is natural and appropriate and develop their own authentic emotional connection to the song, whether they understand Arabic or not. That is what will be explored in this workshop through discussion, and listening and movement exercises.