The Secret to “Feeling the Music”

We’re always told to feel the music, and we always wonder, where is the secret key to these supposed feelings? Is there a chart that shows where they are? Whatever it is we’re supposed to feel? 

Sorry, no.

Yes, composers may seek to evoke certain feelings through the notes, the structure, the lyrics, and musicians pour their feeling into their playing. But…

There is no secret key.

Okay, there sort of is, and it’s connected to the word feeling. But it’s not about solving a puzzle. It’s about you.

The Arabic word for feeling, AHsahs, covers both emotional and physical feeling, just like the English word. 

And the secret to improvisation, according to group-comedy-improv folks, is following a physical impulse

Physical impulse. 

Yup. That mean letting the body lead. Following the body as it responds to the music (this is how I draw the pix for these articles, too—I pick a color and let my hand do what it wants. And then I fill it in.

So the music calls to your arm, and your arm extends. And you notice the physical sensation as your arm moves. The bones, the muscles, the tendons, the blood, the energy, all of it.

What comes through you as you make this gesture? Maybe it feels nostalgic, or pushing away, or welcoming—or brings an image of something that happened 20 years ago—you hold out your hand and all of a sudden you’re reminded of this other time, this other space. And that comes into your dance.

That’s the feeling you—you, personally—get from the music.

You move, and the movement generates feelings. 

The pleasure of the movement itself, for one. Belly dance is very pleasurable to do, all those muscles and tendons elegantly expanding and contracting with beauty in sync with the music. 

But also, the music has wisps and nuances of feeling that flit across it like flying leaves. We let them pass through us. We don’t decide, or judge, or clutch, or question them. We let them come through us. We show what we feel.

We may get images in our heads, colors, or notice the physical sensations of our movement. We observe and express. 

Dancers interpret the music.

We show what we feel from the music. 

Not necessarily with the face. With the body. With the line, carriage, tilt of head, slope of shoulders. We let ourselves feel and we let what we feel show. (This may make us terrible poker players. The poker face is a separate skill ; )

The more we adopt a curiosity about how our body will respond, the more we step back and observe rather than control, the more space we make for our feeling to blossom. 

Of course, some songs may evoke clear feelings, in certain places or all the way through. Songs may bring images, memories, narratives to mind, and we can dance those. Not as pantomime—belly dance is an abstract art. 

We dance their essence

We don’t have to tell the story that evolves; we just express the sequence of feelings that comes to us. Any guests will hang their own story on our feeling-sequence. 

One of the attributes of the Buddha is that though he may speak only one word, that one word will answer the varied questions of all the different people who hear it. Our dance can be like this. This is why art is loaves and fishes. It feeds everyone. 

The more we engage fully with the music, the more trust ourselves and our bodies and the music, the more we can do this. 

A Lioness doesn’t question her role in the world, her relative worthiness for what she’s doing. She is fully present in the moment. 

And so are we. 

I help dancers bring the dance into their bodies, discover their own feeling from the music, and to express those feelings through intuitive movement.

This is what we’re doing in Belly Dance BEDROCK which begins Tuesday, Feb 2. We develop ease with and confidence in the movement, in how it feels in the body.

This is a side benefit of what we’re doing in Tuning In, which begins Friday, Jan 29. Tuning In is about settling the nervous system to we can feel more alive in the moment. This helps pave the way for more intuitive, confident response to the music.

And it’s what we are doing in Taqsim Tuesdays, part of the Belly Dance Bundle 2020, and now available to all.

The feeling is the most important thing.

Here’s to feeling alive and free in the moment.


Music! Georges Yazbek, Oud and Rhythms. Please copy and paste if the link doesn’t work (not with your phone)

PS Interesting short article

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