Listening With the Body: The Raqs Sharqi Dancer as Musical Interpreter
Tuesday, Feb. 25, 7:30-9 p.m.
MMaP Gallery, second floor, St. John’s Arts & Culture Centre
Please join us for a free public lecture by Dr. Ainsley Hawthorn (Yale University), part of MMaP’s Music & Culture Lecture Series 2019–2020. For those unable to attend in person, the event will be livestreamed on our YouTube channel.
Abstract: The accomplished dance performer is not merely an entertainer, artist, or athlete in their own right but an interpreter who translates sound into movement. Interpretive skill plays a particularly important role in Egyptian raqs sharqi or Oriental dance, which is customarily improvised by a solo dancer to live musical accompaniment. The heterophonic structure of classical Egyptian music creates interest by layering instruments, each of which simultaneously performs its own ornamentation on the melody, rather than by adding harmonies. As intermediary between the music and the audience, the dancer has the ability to direct the audience’s attention to a particular instrument or embellishment by emulating its rhythm, pitch, and dynamics in movement. In so doing, the sharqi dancer chooses not only what the audience will see, but what they will hear. This talk will discuss the concept of muḥāsabah (analytical listening) and will describe how, by being a sammīʿa (skilled listener), the dancer can enhance the audience’s appreciation of the music, temporarily making them skilled listeners as well. Ultimately, the talk will consider dance performance as a multisensorial practice that combines sounds, sights, and movements in order to heighten the audience’s aesthetic and emotional experience.
Presented by Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media, and Place (MMaP)