ATS / FCBD Wold Wide Flash Mob

music sheet

It’s that time of the year again and we’ve got the music selection to vote on. And as usual, I’ve got thoughts. I am writing this assuming lyrics were checked for each song and vetted appropriately to avoid anything questionable in them. I am not going to claim I understand all the languages used in these songs.

  • Vejîn (feat. Mufîde Hemdî): beautiful track but takes way too long to get going, almost one and a half minute out of a four minute song. I do prefer songs that start slow as they give you time to gather your wits and settle into your dancing, but for a street performance, I think nearly half the song until pace picks up might be a bit too much, and I fear we would loose the audience.
  • Unda: lovely track, starts slow but with variations. I would probably suggest not using zills or using wooden ones as the sound is rather delicate. The rhythm is, for a change with Faun, a steady 4/4, but even then it has some variations that any newbies will need to keep an eye out for. I like this track, should be good for dancing with a bigger group
  • за дуби: the feel is for fast movements, but it’s not a regular 4/4 rhythm. Seriously, why do we need to have this same discussion every year? Yes, the 6/4 bars thrown in between are somewhat regular and at the end of a cycle do add up to the same count as if we’d been in 4/4… but it’s *still* not 4/4. So unless we’re willing to listen to the music and choose 1-2 counts steps on these bars to account for the 6 count, we are not dancing to the music, are we? I honestly can’t see this song working for slow
  • Tanxugueiras, currently in the lead: great fun song BUT… it’s still a 12/8 song with mixed slow/fast feel. Doable? Yes, absolutely. Doable well with zills by beginners? debatable. If it was me, with beginners, I’d only work with slow in that case and arrange variations on the Moroccan 6 zilling patterns to match the 12/8. Fast? Yes, maybe, but again, leave the zills or change them to match the 12/8
  • Caravan: years ago I danced a choreography to this. It’s a great song, if a little bit repetitive for my liking at the beginning, although the build up is handled beautifully. If handled well, the build up into the big drumming section should be spectacular with the zills getting in on the action, but the fast part is FAST, and I say that from experience! If I was arranging with a bigger group, I’d suggest the beginners worked mostly during the slow beginning, and then suggest they join the chorus for the final fast bits with someone experienced leading the chorus. And practise the ramping up of speed because you really need to be listening to it.
  • Sam and the Womp: It’s certainly going to catch attention. But I’m not sure it’s the kind of music that screams “bellydancing” to the general public. On the upside, it’s steady rhythm and fun enough that should be easy to dance to for beginners. But to me feels more like party music and less like something suitable to present the style to the general public
  • Vorozhyla: Funnily enough, I had this song earmarked for dancing myself. I do really like it, but I am not sure how well it will work for the general audience; I envision this as a really dramatic slow, the video and lyrics certainly point to that, but my experience with the general public is that they don’t enjoy dramatic slow that much. Looks like it’s lagging behind as second to last, so I’m happily going to pocket it for myself
  • Anatolia: crowd pleaser, I think, but apparently not in the voting. To be honest, I’m not particularly fond of this track but I think it would work well, and it’s got a decent length for a big group to participate as smaller groups the way we would do a full performance. Objectively, it’s perfect for what we want it. But it’s not catching on, and it’s middle of the pack, so probably we won’t see it. Another one to save for my own playlists.
  • Покохала упиря: this one, to me feels just too separated from the origins of our dance. We’ve all danced to Balkan and Balkan influenced music, but that is because there are strong musical influences in Eastern Europe from the MENAHT cultures and the musical traditions are linked and compatible. To me, it feels way too Slavic and I am honestly not comfortable bellydancing to it. Thankfully it’s also middle of the pack so likely we won’t
  • O Mama, currently runner up: This feels like a wonderful track to dance to, powerful vocals and strong rhythmic session, although it has the same issue I see with Vejîn, where it takes a bit too long to get going for my taste.

And as you can gather from the above… I am not really happy with any of the options.

So, how did we get to this point? Firstly, let me state unequivocally here that *this is not a critique of the work put in by the administrators and organisers of the group*. They are following people’s choices.The songs are selected out of those proposed by the members of the FCBD/ATS WWFM Facebook group. The ones with the most votes are passed onto the second stage. This is the second stage. And I know the system sounds fair, in theory.

In practice, we have had for a few years now a situation where songs are chosen that are likely to be difficult to beginners, either because of quick changes in musicality, odd or unsuitable rhythm patterns (12/8, 6/4 like above for songs that have a fast vocabulary feel), or songs that seems disconnected from the style. We also have had a selection of lovely songs that, to me, were thrown into the arena because they are beautiful, but that doesn’t quite mean that they might be well received or engaging to the public.

The way I see it, we seem to be forgetting that the World Wide Flash Mob is to show the style and allow everybody to participate. Odd meters are fun and I’m a sucker for them, yes. They are also incredibly common in MENAHT music. But years and years ago FCBD style established that fast vocabulary is only used with 4/4. This was likely because a lot of our vocabulary is set up for or practiced as multiples of 4 counts. And also likely, because there are different ways of interpreting where the accents on a, say, 6/4 fall, so you might have someone who makes some counts longer, and others who add a 2-count move at the end of a four. The reason the experiments with 9/8 worked was because Turkish 9/8 is fixed. But dealing with all of that plus improvisation on the fly is *brutal*, and let’s face it, a lot of people cannot count them. I’ve been in a hafla where a group was dancing to Rompi Rompi, in Turkish 9/8, and most of the audience, consisting of other dancers, could not clap on time. Which would be concerning if I wasn’t aware that most Western people have issues with irregular time signatures. I’ve also had heated debates with people claiming that 12/8 (or 2 bars of 6/8) is the same as 4/4, and other issues with basic understanding of music theory and rhythm. It’s time we really start addressing our education on these matters if we want to use these pieces of music.

So yes, I see an odd/irregular or compound time signature, and I start getting nervous. Not for me, but for the overall effect it will have for *everybody*. Because I am not thinking just of myself when choosing. I am thinking of everybody who will potentially participate or not depending on how comfortable they are with dancing proficiently to the track.

At the end of the day, we are supposed to be “painting the music”. I’d love to say that most people would be fine. But my experience sadly suggests that most people will just drive everything at 4/4 and then claim it’s the same, shoehorning a 4/4 over whatever we hear that has even count because at the end it will even out. Doing that, to me, just gives a message that the music doesn’t matter as long as we can put in our multiples-of-4-counts steps on it. Yes, there are alternatives, modifications, or the like. Sometimes, you could dance it slow. But the track above is 134bpm with a really strong drive, so not suitable. You could add a short slow movement for those 2 counts as the feel changes there, but that would mean that you MUST remember to use a 1, 2 or 4 count move before it and pick a slow that can be done quickly (not a lot!). And any of these options would leave newbies behind.

Don’t get me wrong, I WANT the style to get better, I WANT the style to elevate itself and try new things. But that won’t happen if we keep thinking that 36 counts are just 8*4/4 regardless of the time signature underneath it, and reacting collectively with pitchforks any time someone points this out. By all means pick rhythmically complex songs to dance with your own group at a more controlled environment if they are comfortable, I’d love to see it! But I think these choices are absolutely not suitable for a flash mob, and we should be more careful when the next year original voting comes around, to pick options that are not just beautiful, but also suitable for the event, the people who will dance, and the public.

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11 Responses

  1. God thoughts Ana. My biggest fear over the years was really that a song where choosen that is not compatible with beginners and as the past shows, the community also choose random tricks to get their favourite song blow up during the voting.

    In my mind, the original idea of the flashmob,the representing of the style, including every level and one song, one day, one dance is watered down.

    Personally I have no problem with longer songs as those will give large groups the chance to calm and dance without the hurry to change dancers too fast.

    Well, let’s see what the voting will bring and hope for the best 💕

    • Ana says:

      Oh longer songs are fine! They are a bit of an issue for me because I am a solo act right now and it can be just tiring to feel that every song ends being a full catalog of steps LOL Of course that means I could also do a bit with sword, a bit with fan and a bit with zills, edit it and that would be great. but of course that would not be doable as a flash mob, but would look great in my Socials! *facepalm*

      But I agree with you re the representation of the style. I think as a collective, we’ve lost sight of making the flash mob about everybody *and* making it attractive to the general public. They are dual purposes and we should aim for both.

      At the end of the day, it’s about deciding what we want to prioritise. Is this something primarily to attract new people? is this to showcase the style? Is it to have great videos for our socials? Or is it to dance with our friends? because *to me*, the choices in the last few years have been failing at least one of those objectives by prioritising the flashy showcase that looks great on our socials to send to potential venues for hiring. And if that is the case… I think we are deffinitely loosing our way.

      • Meliai says:

        So true, Ana! What also bugs me is flash mobs that turn into veritable performances – in full costume, jewellery, and makeup. That’s not what a flash mob is about.
        (And ,again, it might look flashy on social media, but excludes beginner or casual dancers who just don’t possess a full-on stage costume(yet)).

  2. Sabine says:

    I absolutely agree with you. The music has become less and less beginner friendly and may alienate them from ever participating again. Complicated movements and complicated songs should be reserved for individual performances and shows apart from this event. I am also not a big fan of super fast songs, once again leaving behind dancers who are not comfortable with fast tempos. Especially when you do not have an experienced dancer, the moves become muddled looking instead of elegant and precise. Just because a song sounds cool or fun, does not necessarily make it a good choice for the broad spectrum of dancers. This dance form is supposed to unify and bring together dancers of all places and ages, but to me it seems like we are losing awareness of that. One can only hope that in the future that would become more of a consideration in suggesting songs.

    • Ana says:

      the other issue with super fast songs are the locations. It’s ok to do if you’re dancing at 140bpm on a stage or a studio decorated to do a carefully edited video. But for street performances, which is what the flash mob was originally supposed to be…? That’s far trickier.

      To be absolutely fair… Bay City Shimmy was 130bpm. Derwood Green was 125bpm. Bounce 120. So was Elila Farh, and The Flight of the Morrighan was similar. So we have kept things more or less along the same speed. It’s just that some recent songs FEEL faster, and the dancing has become flashier.

  3. Kristin says:

    Súper fast song + dancing on asphalt, concrete with seams, uneven grass, or paving bricks= twisted knees and possible injuries to dancers. Great for a stage with a smooth wood floor, not good for random locations with any manner of floor surfaces.

    • Alicia says:

      The first year we did it, we were on wet cobblestones in the dark in Covent Garden! It was very precarious. Any of the faster spins and turns would have been very dangerous.

      • Ana says:

        We did the first one in Brighton with Phil Thornton himself by the beach. It was raining, we managed to catch just the few minutes it wasn’t but I was still walking around with trousers soaked at the hem, etc. Not pleasant tbh.

        We were supposed to do level 1 moves only but some people threw in a few more, thankfully nothing that terrible because it was the weekend after my 3rd FCBD style. But no spins nor anything flashy so it was pretty stable for the most part.

    • Ana says:

      Yes, that’s another issue with the fast songs. Although except for Terra (70 or 140 bpm, depending on what people are hearing; it’s 140 for me), the rest are pretty much along what we’ve had in the past. Problem is, I think with those situations it’s either tone down moves, pick slowed down music.

      Problem is that a lot of groups are now doing full choreographies filmed and staged, which of course causes others to think it’s fine to go all out. It’s getting more and more complicated

  4. Samantha says:

    Thank you for writing so well about this. I have similar thoughts and appreciate you giving them a voice.

    • Ana says:

      You’re welcome! I had similar last year and in the end I didn’t write them down, so I wanted to do it this year. I don’t have illussions that me speaking out will change anything, I’m not high up enough on the totem pole to make much of a difference, but I needed to let it out 🙂

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