Go on a choreography journey with me! I’m going to blog along as I work on a choreography to “Andah Aleik” for my duo, io. Feel free to leave a comment with your process–I’m curious to know how people approach choreography. This is just “an” option and sometimes even I don’t follow these steps, depending on the project. I hope it will be useful to you, or if nothing else, vaguely amusing.

I’m interested to document this particular project because I’m envisioning a more collaborative effort as opposed to prescribing the entire choreography and applying it to somebody else, which is what I’ve usually done. This is a new approach for me!

Step 0: Research


  1. Look up the lyrics of your chosen song, if applicable (even if you’re doing an instrumental version)
  2. Search around for the song in general (any history, famous renditions, etc). In the case of modern or pop songs, I would also look for music videos
  3. Watch how other dancers have treated the song

Researching your song means looking up the lyrics at the very least. If it’s a “classic” or otherwise very well-known song, search around and see what you can find. If it’s folkloric, do the appropriate research. For pop songs and the like, this part is usually pretty easy…just make sure it’s not too raunchy (or, if it’s raunchy, choose your venue accordingly).

Watch how other dancers treat it–I wouldn’t overdo this step because you run the risk of subconsciously comparing yourself to other dancers, but sometimes a song has sad lyrical content and yet you don’t need to be full on tragic while dancing it. It’s helpful to see how others have approached it to see if you’re in range. That isn’t to say you can’t make your own artistic decisions, but I think it’s useful to know not only the content of the song but how the song fits into the landscape, or how others relate to it. This will help keep you from looking totally clueless (and/or will help you decide what venues may be appropriate for the piece). It also may start to inform some of your movement choices.

I’ve actually done “Andah Aleik” before as a soloist. It was six years ago and an improvisation, so it won’t impact this project much. “Andah Aleik” is a song originally by Warda; I’m doing the instrumental version by Zouli Production. It’s a love song that many dancers have done, so I feel confident that it’s not a boneheaded choice on my part.

They see us everywhere / They meet us, we the two lovers / If they see me, one day, alone… they will say we have quarrelled / How can we quarrel, my love? / Alright, if I quarrel with you.. to whom shall I talk? (translation from ibellydance.net).

Here is my solo performance of this song–woof, a little hard to watch! lolz.

Step 1: Listen to the Song 100 Times

Ruby Beh recommends listening to your song literally one hundred (100) times before you start to choreograph–use the counter on iTunes (or equivalent) to make sure. Keep in mind that “hearing” and “listening” are different things! So having it on in the background when you’re doing something else doesn’t really count (but I guess it also doesn’t hurt).

Since I’ve performed to this song before (and it’s just one of my favorite songs), I’ve listened to it a zillion times and know it pretty well.

For me, I get to a point where I start to see shapes and directions in my mind’s eye. It’s like I’m watching a dancer (who is much better than I am) dance from very far away. I get an impression of the movement and emotion, but can’t see the specifically what is happening.

For this project, I’m interested in “if I quarrel with you…to whom should I talk?” This has already influenced some of how I’m sketching out the choreography. The song switches between two instruments and I’m thinking that I will take one and Aliceanna will take the other; we can play up the relationship between the instruments.

In the next post I’ll get into song mapping. Stay tuned for another exciting adventure.

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