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Music Theory 101: Instruments of the Takht Ensemble - The Oud

Now that we’ve covered some very basic music terminology (there will always be more terms to learn of course), let’s dive deeper into our music lessons and learn about some of the instruments you might commonly hear in your favorite classic belly dance tunes!

We’ll start by learning about the instruments of the Takht (or Takhat), which is the musical ensemble or orchestra in Middle Eastern music. Some of the instruments you might find in the Takht ensemble are the Oud, Qanun, Violin, Ney, Riq, and Darbuka. (“Takht (Music)”)

(Oud - Photo by Frank Kovalchek)


                     (Qanun)                                                                                  (Riq - Photo by Catrin)

                     (Ney)                                                                                                     (Darbuka)

That’s a lot of different instruments, and it’s only the beginning! Every country and region has its own special instruments and you might find that instruments have different names depending on where you travel.

So let’s tackle one instrument at a time, beginning with the Oud.


(Syrian musicians in Aleppo with an Oud, 1915)

The Oud (ud) is derived from the Arabic word for wood: al-ud (العود). It has a pear shaped wooden frame and a short neck with 11 to 13 strings and no frets, which gives it a very distinct sound. (Parfitt) You can find the Oud used in “Persian, Greek, Turkish, Byzantine, Arabia...

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3 Comments | Posted in News Practice Tips Music By Datura Online Staff


Do you ever wonder why some dancers have a natural propensity for fast, powerful locks while others can bend time with the slowest, and juiciest figure 8s?  The answer may lie in the composition of their muscle fibers.

The human body contains over 215 pairs of skeletal muscles and each muscle is comprised of a combination of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers.  Slow twitch muscle fibers (Type I) contract with little force and contain a higher density of capillaries which allow the muscles to carry more oxygen to the muscles for aerobic activities and sustain those activities for a longer period of time (10 minute shimmy drill, anyone?).  

Fast twitch muscle fibers can be divided into two types, type IIa and IIb.  Type IIa are the “hybrid” muscle fibers, and they retain properties of both fast and slow twitch.  Type IIb are the true fast twitch muscles.  With a twitch rate of up to 70/sec, these muscles contract quickly and powerfully.  Your Type IIb muscle fibers allow you to strike like a cobra and unearth your most vigorous pops and locks.

In order to remember the speed and force qualities of each type, it may be helpful to think of them in
terms of lighting.  Slow twitch muscles are like a lava lamp, the light being given off is relatively dim (displaying little force), but the lamp can remain on for extended periods of time.  Fast twitch muscles on the other hand, are like a strobe light, they’re quick to turn on and quick to turn off. They’re not going to provide a sustaine...

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3 Comments | Posted in Practice Tips By Datura Online Staff

We’d like to talk a little bit about music theory…wait, wait, wait! Don’t run away just yet!

animals running nope octopus run away

We know music theory can be a bit daunting, but today we’re just going to touch on the basics and ask ourselves a few questions about music.

There certainly is a dynamic and important relationship between music and belly dance. A few good questions to ask ourselves as dancers are: How much do I need or want to know about music? Will knowing more about music affect the way I dance? If yes, then how much should I study?

The answers are ultimately up to you as an individual, but for those interested in exploring the world of music, we’re here to share a few practice tips for training your ear, give you just the basics of how music is put together, and show how you can apply basic music theory to your own personal practice.

Let’s start at the very beginning: Music is the “art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color” (dictionary.com). As belly dancers we’re exposed to all kinds of wonderful music from all over the world and we can innately understand the differences and similarities of all the music we hear.

Most of the music we encounter in our dance has a beat to it, although there are some exceptions: drum solos definitely have a beat, but an oud or violin taxim solo might not. We can find a great example of this in Sedona’s choreography, danced to the song Jemilleh.
The musician, John Bilezikjian, plays a beautiful taxim...
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3 Comments | Posted in News Practice Tips Music By Datura Online Staff

When it comes to choosing what to include in your personal practice, belly dancers have a lot of options.  You could drill your basic shapes (locks, circles and eights); incorporate those shapes into more complex layers; practice fancy footwork with traveling, levels, and turns; incorporate smooth and controlled arm pattern cycles; or you could spend the hour powering through the biggest, juiciest shimmy you can muster. 

And that’s not all! A well balanced routine also includes conditioning, strength training, flexibility, expression, musicality, improvisation, and choreography.  You may be wondering: "How can I possibly make time for everything?". We’ve got 5 short, and very effective tips to help you organize your practice and track your progress.

you can do anything,organizing your dance practice, belly dance motivation

Quick Tip #1: Set Goals at Regular Intervals (and revisit those goals)

Ask yourself what skills you wish to learn or improve on.  For many of us, our initial response might be “I want to master all of it!”, but what would truly give you that triumphant sense of accomplishment?  As David Allen so aptly put it, "You can do anything, but not everything". Choose a few items to really focus on and then determine concrete goals and a realistic time frame in which to achieve them.  It’s helpful to set weekly goals as intentions to keep at the forefront of your mind throughout your practice (“This week I will maintain energy and intention throughout my arms”) and longer term goals as deadlines for progress (“In 3 months, I will be strong en...

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7 Comments | Posted in News Practice Tips By Datura Online Staff

Excellence,building habits, setting up a belly dance practice, sticking to your routine

It sounds simple, however building new habits is challenging and changing your existing habits requires careful planning and constant vigilance.  Here are 7 tips to set you up for success.

Setting up your Routine:

Make a checklist of the items you wish to include in your routine.  Be aware of how much time each task requires and assign exact timings for when each item begins and ends. Once you have set these details, set your routine’s schedule in stone by writing it in your planner.  Chunk this time off for your dance routine and treat it as you would a very important appointment.  

Don’t overdo it.  Give yourself at least one day off per week to allow your body to recover.  This will allow your muscles to repair and reduce long-term fatigue. 

In addition to scheduling your routine of to-dos, be sure to set aside time for rest and relaxation.  Psychological studies have found there is a limit to one’s self control.  You have a finite amount of willpower:  Resisting one thing will reduce your overall self control and make you more susceptible to the next temptation.  Anticipate these moments of weakness by giving yourself scheduled breaks and leisure time.  This will replenish your willpower reserves, empowering you to continue to stick with your routine.

Remember that it takes 30-90 days to establish a routine.  During this time you may need to make a few adjustments to ensure your routine is a reasonable and attainable goal for you. 

Sticking to it:alarm clock, setting up a dance routine, sticking to your belly dance practice

Respect your routine’s time con...

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4 Comments | Posted in News Practice Tips By Brittany Stark

As with many professions in the arts, the responsibilities of a belly dancer go beyond simply performing dances. If you are a dancer by trade, you are probably by default also a choreographer, actor, musician, sound engineer, producer, marketer, seamstress (or seamster), and hair & makeup artist.  While we are drawn to belly dance (it IS our passion and what fills us up), we may also find ourselves filling myriad of other roles in order to create that perfect moment we envision.  Mixing the set music, creating the choreography, infusing that choreography with emotion and meaning, finding a venue and drawing an audience, sewing our costumes, and fixing our hair and makeup on show day - each of these components enhances the affect of the others and it’s not until all of these details are in place and the curtain rises that we finally get to the heart of it - the dance performance.  

One might ask, “But how can I possibly fill all of these roles? There are not enough hours in the day!”.  Our answer: “With practice”.  It would be unreasonable to expect the new performer to master all of these trades overnight, but with time and practice, you will begin to see your knowledge and skill grow, inch by inch. Luckily, we’ve also got some helpful pointers to assist you along the way.   

Today’s focus will be on the makeup element of performance preparation.  Whether you are brand new to the world of stage makeup, or a seasoned performer looking for some fresh ...

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5 Comments | Posted in News By Brittany Stark

We’ve all been there: Warming up in the wings of the theatre and you’ve just been notified you are on in 5 minutes.  You take a deep inhale a relax into your stretch. Suddenly you notice an alarmingly familiar sensation that causes one of your costume pieces to shift.  


Costume malfunctions and other misadventures often present themselves at the least opportune moment. Having a toolkit for just such occasions will equip you to meet those obstacles with confidence and ease.  We’ve compiled a list of 10 emergency items that every dancer needs in their showcase. 

Costume Catastrophes:

Sewing1. Needle & Thread: Keep a needle and thread handy to quickly secure any broken straps, ripped skirts, or failing zil elastic.
2. Scissors: Another significant component of your traveling sewing kit, they will prove themselves a useful companion to your needle & thread.
3. Pliers: For jewelry malfunction, loose coins, chains, or collapsing headdresses. You will be glad to have a pair of needle nose pliers on hand!

Hair and Makeup Mishaps:

4. Mirror: Not all gigs come with a deluxe dressing room.  Oftentimes belly dancers find Hair & Makeupthemselves applying lipstick in the most unlikely of places.  Whether you’re in a kitchen or a broom closet, a pocket mirror is both pragmatic and helpful.

5. Bobby Pins: You can never have too many of these on hand, especially if your choreography includes spins.
6. Eyelash Glue: Vanquish those finicky eyelashes! Make ‘em stay put with your emergency reserve of eyelash glue.

Energy Dep...

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5 Comments | Posted in News Practice Tips By Brittany Stark

5 Ways to Achieve your 2015 Dance Goals

Jan 16, 2015 10:50:00 AM

As the sun rises on a bright new year, you may find yourself reflecting on 2014 and setting new intentions for 2015.  I always love this time of year because it is a fresh start  for everyone and you can feel the eagerness and excitement in the air as we each set our aims for 2015.  

sunrise, 2015 resolutions, dance goals, belly dance practice

There is often a flurry of excitement as one resolves to a new challenge.  Fast forward to a few weeks later and the real work sets in. Today we’ve got 5 ways that can help give you with that extra boost to turn your 2015 dance goals in accomplishments.

1. Create a Plan:

You know what you want, now it’s time to determine how to get there. Concrete, specific actions take the guess work out of it by telling you exactly what you need to do to achieve your goal.  If your goals include stronger & bigger chest lifts, ask yourself what steps you can take to get there.  You may decide to create a Datura Online playlist that includes flexibility stretches and strengthening exercises in addition to drilling chest lifts 3 days a week.

Write your practices in your planner with set start and end dates - this will ensure you set aside the time for meeting your goals.  Start slow by adding one thing at a time. For example, to begin scheduling your chest lift focused practice, start with just the flexibility aspect the first week, then add the strengthening exercises the second week and the drills the 3rd week. Building up to your ideal practice will give your body time to adjust to your routine slowly so you don’t ...

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0 Comments | Posted in Practice Tips By Brittany Stark

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