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DRUM SOLOS: the Rhythm - Dancer Duet

Technique and Performance Guidelines for Drum Solos

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A drum solo is the name for a dance performed by a belly dancer to drum rhythms. It is a duet between the dancer and a drummer. The dancer is expected to be focused on the drumming, interpreting with her body what the drummer plays with her hands.

The duet is between the dancer and the lead drummer. The dancer showcases the drummer and the drummer showcases the dancer. This is accomplished with a playful and personal interaction between dance and rhythm... The dancer is expected to "carry the energy and focus of the audience to different parts of your body... it is boring, boring, boring to do a drum solo that is all hips, even if you have excellent hip articulations." If there are background instrumentalists, they will usually play a 4/4 ayub, belady or maksoum to ground the drum solo and add a richness to it.— Artemis Mouret


Artemis identified four possible parts to a drum solo:

1– Introduction: the music of the lead drummer begins to dominate, signaling the drum solo is imminent.

2– Body: Head, shoulder, rib cage, stomach and full-body undulations; Hip and pelvic articulations, shimmies and freezes.

3– Slow section of repetitive hits: Accent any "doms" (strongest accents) with isolations; If no "doms" then undulations, rolls, circles, figure 8s, hand and arm movements, flutters and abdominal undulations.

4– Increase of speed and intensity of the drum solo to a crescendo at the end.


Level changes and a playful sense of humor are suggested by many teachers, as is rehearsing to lots of drum solo music until your response to riffs becomes instinctive.

Saqra makes a very sensible suggestion on how to mentally prepare yourself for choosing emphatic movements; tailor the movements to the emphasis and strength of the sounds. Sharp sounds mean sharp movements; strong sharp sounds call for strong sharp movement; if the sharp sounds are not emphasized then keep the movements crisp.

Artermis warns: Do not play zills while dancing unless you are an excellent player who has memorized every note - OR - you are trading riffs back and forth with the drummer.

MICHELLE al FARESHA uses the acronym SHIMMY FEST to organize her suggestions:

  • Sharp: Own several sharp percussive moves.
  • Hips: Practice big and little hip movements, fast and slow variations. down into small, sharp ones. Be fluent with shimmies and have a variety of them: add a shimmy to virtually any other movement like a forward pelvic roll or a figure eight.
  • Isolations: are crucial because they allow you to accent different sounds. Work on keeping your upper body still while your hips and legs move (and vice versa). Polish your slow movements; an undulation or rolling maias lay nicely over a soft drum roll.
  • Movement:you can travel a bit. Practice traveling steps that you can accomplish quickly.
  • Mind/ Body: know the music inside and out. Sing the drum solo and hear the melody, the mood, the pauses and the level of the drums.
  • Yowza Factor: Plan a couple of dynamic combinations for particularly noticeable parts of the drum solo. This will add punch to an improvisational piece and will relieve you of having to come up with something new every time.
  • Fun: If you don't have it, your audience certainly won't. Enjoy your music, enjoy your dance.
  • Energy: Put heart and soul into your moves. Your facial expressions will make all the difference in the world as to how your audience responds to your dance.
  • Stamina: Be physically prepared to do a drum solo or your exhaustion will show and your moves will become sloppiest just when they need to be sharpest.
  • Time: A drum solo over 5-6 minutes is too long. Your drum solo will stand out even more if you haven't drummed it to death!


Artemis's advice when using recorded music:
  • Memorize the entire drum solo the way you memorize a song: sing it in a monotone using DOM and TEK syllables.
  • Make sure there is a lead drummer in the song to "interact" with.

Yasmin's definition of BAD drum solo music:
Off beat; monotonous; no build-up or drama; too short or too long; rhythms not repeated (Ideally, a dancer likes 4 sets of a rhythm).


Artemis's advice when performing to live music:
  • Stand next to the drummer and keep her in the corner of your eye; the movement of the arms and hands will predict when the strongest accents will come.
  • Do not crowd the drummer and inhibit her movements.
  • If you are dealing with a show-off or unskilled drummer with the bit between his teeth, keep up by shimmying and hitting accents with hips, rib cage or shoulders— or dance to what the background percussion is playing.
  • Make sure the drummer gets applauded when the drum solo is over.


Anthea (Kawakib) in a dazzling display of soft, as opposed to sharp, drum solo dancing to live music in a restaurant. Her musicality and her mastery of technique, isolations and layering allows her to choose a softer, more subtle response to the drumming, a perfect choice for this small venue.

Artemis Mouret published a manuscript in 2002 on drum solos which will hopefully be integrated into her upcoming book (as of 2015).

Michelle al Faresha, How to Dance to Live Drummers, Web. Gives a LOT of advice on coordinating the drum solo with the lead drummer: what to consider for the opening, the theme, the highlights, the ending. Do keep Artemis's advice (above) in mind; you will not always have a drummer who can or will stick to the plan.

Michelle al Faresha, How to Nail Your Drum Solo , Web. Drum Solo preparation.

Michelle al Faresha performs a drum solo to live drumming. Her sharp, large movements can be seen in the back row of the auditorium.

Short drum solo tutorial for beginner students with local Louisville teacher and performer Ruric-Amari with minimal layering and both soft and sharp movements.

Sadie's drum solo video may be the most widely-viewed one in the world.

Saqra, Belly Dance Drum Solo Tips: Pop, Drop & Lock technique;, 2014; Web.

Let's not leave the boys out! The one and only Tito and nephew Mimo. No, drum solos are not usually performed ON drums, but it is not unknown.

Yasmin Drum Solos for Dancers, Serpentine Communications, Web.

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Latest revision: 2015.11.22
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