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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Belly Dance Teacher Tip: Teach Finger Cymbals to Beginners


By Saqra



It is really very, very important to teach your beginning students at least rudimentary finger cymbals. If you don't, you make it much harder for them to learn later.

This is the deal: when you learn to play cymbals, it is like learning to drive while using a standard shift (clutch) car. If you learn to drive a clutch when you first start, even if it is for a really short time, it is much easier to master in the long run, even if it is many years later that the need appears. That's because, when you learn two new skills at the same time, they are bundled together in your memory and coordination. It is much harder (though not impossible) for an experienced dancer to learn to play cymbals naturally while dancing if that person did not learn to dance and the cymbals at the same time. When learning to play the cymbals at the same time as learning to dance, associated neural pathways form, and the ability to learn the skill for real later is enhanced.

If a person is not exposed to the two skills at the same time, i.e., if she learns to drive on an automatic, then later, if she wants to learn a skill and wants to use it at the same time, she is learning two skills at the same time. She is both driving, and using a clutch.

Sooooo.... if you are a teacher you have a responsibility to teach at least a small amount of basic cymbals to your dancers, even if you don't/can't perform with them yourself. And, if you are a newer student, for heaven's sake! Go get some cymbals and learn something while moving before any more time elapses! And if you are an experienced dancer and you think you may want to play cymbals some day... well, don't put it off for the sake of "mastering your dancing first": it only gets harder. You don't HAVE to perform with them, you just want to preserve the choice.

Advantages to playing cymbals:

  • Your cymbals can control the heart rate of the audience, making them more excited by your dance than is really warranted.
  • Your cymbals can save you when something goes wrong with your music, allowing you to perform to your own basic rhythms or counterrhythms.
  • Your cymbals allow you to play your own drum solo over the top of a bad drummer who doesn't understand how to phrase for a dancer.
  • I've repeatedly seen mediocre dancers with great cymbals win competitions over superb dancers without them.

Once again, this is the opinion of a dancer... who is also a musician. Your mileage may vary.





About the Author

Saqra (Seattle, Washington, USA) is a powerful dance artist and a master instructor. Her fluidity, grace, and technical skill is highlighted by her friendly demeanor and clear joy of the dance. She did not inherit the diva gene.

Saqra won titles in Belly Dance USA (Oregon), Belly Dancer of the Year (California), Belly Dancer of the Universe (California), Wiggles of the West (Nevada), and many other competitions. She was voted "Best Kept Secret of 2005" and "Instructor of the Year 2008" by readers of Zaghareet Magazine.

Saqra's journey in this dance form began in 1977 and has led her to study with many of the best dancers in the world, including in America, Canada, Turkey and Egypt. Saqra continues to travel and study both in the USA and abroad and prides herself on proper research for anything she teaches. Folklore, fakelore, and stage creativity: all three are valuable, and Saqra clearly presents for each what they actually are. Saqra is constantly expanding her expertise in the traditional ethnic forms of the dance, the modern stage variants, and the continuing evolving fusion techniques, all these areas combined keep her material fresh and current.

Saqra is widely known as an event promoter, musician, music and instructional video producer, and a registered hypnotherapist in the state of Washington. That is enough stuff to start explaining what she has been doing in belly dance since 1977. Visit her at

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Michael Baxter, Santa Clara, California. In the photo, Saqra is holding her Teacher of the Year 2008 Award from Zaghareet Magazine.

Saqra with Award



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