Drum solos are for show offs, and I mean this in a good way. Dancers use them to show off their technique and personality. As a very broad rule of thumb, dancers in the West tend to put more emphasis on the technique, whilst Egyptian dancers put more emphasis on the personality.
The sharp beats of the drum invite crisp, precise technique, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everything you do must be percussive and staccato. Give the audience some breathing space with some softer moves, or even some stillness. Try not to overcomplicate things. Daria Miskevich has incredible technique and energy but watch her closely and you’ll see that actually she isn’t dancing at a million miles an hour and throwing in layer after layer of moves. She is varying her pace and using those showstopper moves sparingly for maximum effect.
At the other end of the showing off spectrum, where it’s all about personality, here is Camelia. Camelia is wild on stage, a complete free spirit. She gets away with things that noone else could! She is definitely one of those dancers who divide opinions. She reminds me of a little girl, hyped up on sugar, desperate to be the centre of attention! I love watching her. The drum solo starts at 4:55.
EDIT: This video has been made private 🙁 if I find another Camelia drum solo I’ll update this post.
The eyebrow wiggle! 6:25 if you missed it 🙂 I’m sure the whole performance is not to everyone’s taste, but she is clearly just up there having fun and I admire that.
The rhythms and patterns in drum solos are easy for the average audience to listen to and understand, so it’s nice to be able to play with those patterns in unexpected ways. Personally, I like a dancer who can surprise me and make me laugh. There is no obvious emotion in the music so you need to bring something of yourself to your dance. I’ve seen dancers who perform their (technically admirable) drum solos with just one expression on their face and it just bores me. Most dancers manage to find their own balance between technique and personality. Some of my favourites are Aziza and Asmahan.
Aziza’s drum solo choreographies are always creative and fun:
Asmahan having fun with her musicians. Just watch 🙂 :
You can have too much of a good thing….I have a love/hate relationship with drum solos. The fact that they are so good for showing off the very best you can do in an audience-friendly way means that they get done an awful lot. At some shows it can feel like every second dance is a drum solo, sometimes because it is and sometimes because dancers insist on sticking one on to the end of their music (competitions are particularly bad for this). You’ve just enjoyed some lovely soulful tarab and then you hear the tell tale “tak, tak…” that means a drum solo is about to be committed. After the first couple I’m not thinking “Oh good, a drum solo!” but “Here we go again…is the bar still open?”. It’s a shame when you’ve got lots of very good dancers, but when everyone is doing the same thing it’s just too much. I very rarely dance drum solos at events for dancers for this reason.
But I still like them 🙂 I decided to teach my improvers class about Arabic rhythms this term, which I thought would go nicely with a drum solo choreography, and once I started working on it I found myself enjoying it. I might just have to choreograph a new one for myself. So I’m definitely back in the “love” phase!