Weekly Challenge for 7/30/12

Yay it’s another Monday challenge!  This week, we’re returning to:


We all know that we can play rhythms with zills, and that dancers use them as accompaniment to our dancing.  But zills are not just icing on the cake…zills are instruments in their OWN right!  (Want proof?  Watch this)  While it is difficult to dance and use zills as instruments (rather than just accompaniment), we can at least aim for it, can’t we?  Then maybe we could do something more like this than what we are all used to.


First, of course, we have to get comfortable with playing zills at all.  If you’ve never picked them up before, perhaps you should try this challenge first.  And no, beginners, you don’t have to bow out of this challenge yet!  It’s going to be baby steps for us all (including me!)

Beginner: In the previous challenge, you only tried 3s, but you’ll need to know at least one other zill pattern before you can attempt this challenge.  If you haven’t learned it yet, learn 3-3-7 (ask your teacher!).  Then, while walking (don’t stand still and zill!), do 3s for 16 counts and then 3-3-7 for 16 counts.  Basically, you will be alternating them.  What will be challenging is remembering when to switch, especially since there isn’t a whole lot of difference between 3s and 3-3-7.  If…and only if…you know beledi, you can switch between it and 3s.  Why do this?  Because this will get your brain working!  In order to think of zills more as instruments, we have to play them like instruments.  But it’s difficult if we only know patterns.  By practicing patterns and switching rapidly between them, we’re getting our brains ready for playing and dancing at the same time, while switching rhythms.  This will eventually become playing and dancing, while playing “notes.”  But baby steps first!

Intermediate: We’re going to shorten the count and add different patterns.  I don’t advise doing this in performance, because it probably won’t sound very good; this is just an exercise.  Pick 4 rhythms you know (likely 3s, 3-3-7, beledi, and saiidi) and only do 8 counts of each.  Keep the same pattern of rhythms for now (in other words, don’t randomly play whichever rhythm comes to mind).  Of course, as in the previous challenge, you will be dancing.  Keep the steps super-basic, because your brain is going to be working hard with keeping up with the patterns.  Warning: this is going to be hard.  Don’t get discouraged!  You’re keeping a lot of things in mind: dancing, the count of the music, which pattern you are supposed to be following, and finally actually playing the rhythm.  That’s a lot!  Don’t forget to smile!  This is fun, right?  Right?!

Advanced: Start thinking about other ways to play zills.  Playing rhythms and patterns is probably old hat by now, so come up with other rhythms (think drum solo!).  Check out videos on YouTube for inspiration (see link above).  Play a pattern on one hand and then on the other.  Play and have fun with the zills, but don’t forget to dance with them!  You can keep the moves simple for now, because your zilling is what you are going to be concentrating on (that doesn’t mean you should let your dancing get sloppy though!).  Think about how you could incorporate zills as instruments rather than just these loud things on my fingers that I play to get your attention into your dancing.  Don’t just slip back into playing beledi in a song because that’s what the rhythm is.  Think of yourself as an additional member of the orchestra and how you can fill in the music and not just copy the drummer.

Happy zilling AND dancing!

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About Kamrah

Kamrah is a belly dancer in Chicago, IL. They started belly dance as an exercise routine but it turned into a passion for dance that has not lessened, even after more than a decade. They have a powerful presence on the stage, and is particularly known for their amazing shimmies. Kamrah is also known as a very versatile belly dancer, and audiences have come to expect the unexpected from them. Performances can be anything from traditional Egyptian, to tribal fusion, to fantasy cosplay (costume play) pieces.

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