The Troupe
This drummer's journey with other drummers.

Rehearsal: August 26, 2009

Last night’s rehearsal with the dancers went pretty well. The agenda for the troupe overall was to work on transitions, both how and when. We needed to figure out some sort of cues, or timing, to know when to change our beat and tempo. Ironically, especially after how productive our last few rehearsals have been, the drummers were asked to simplify what we are doing. (I suppose it is nice to be good enough at this point to need to slow down and simplify. There is probably a lesson in there somewhere but I am way too tired to worry about it…)

The overall plan is for the dancers to begin with some sword dancing, in duos and trios, to a mid tempo 4/4. We were doing a 4/4 mix, but it was a bit too confusing, so we were asked to play a straighter 4/4. The drummers went with the Maqsum, with very little ornamentation.

After a few minutes of that, essentially enough time for all of the dancers to be in at least a duo or trio, we slow down into 8/4 time (A Masmoudi in this case) for a few more minutes of duos and trios. Then one of the dancers steps out for a solo, and quite acrobatic, sword dance, done to a very slow tempo Shiftitelli. We keep the Shiftitelli as sparse as we can, and then I do my best to solo some rolls and pops on the top of it to correspond to the soloist’s moves. Kind of like a drum roll before the high dive at a circus, only more fun I hope, and no one gets squished if we mess up…

The soloist does the splits, spins fast and slow, and as the finale does a kind of ballet stretch actually lifting one foot above her head while balancing on the other.  All while keeping the sword balanced on her head!   It is very impressive, and when I am playing well the pops and rolls add drama, and let the audience know when to applaud.

From there the soloist rejoins the troupe of dancers, and the drummers go into a bit of 2/4 Ayoub fury. Some shimmying, some smiling and waving, and off the dancers go, and that is the show!

Overall, it’s about 20 minutes of solid dancing and drumming, has 4 different rhythm and beat changes, and is a lot of fun.

At the end of 90 minutes of work I felt like the drummers were on target, and that the changes and performances would be fine. I have an appointment to meet the soloist separately, so that we can work out how the solo will go.

But here is the really fun part!

The dancers brought a CD they have been enjoying that has a very fast paced song used for something the dancers call “Dueling Duos”. They played it through for us one time, and then we turned right around and NAILED it, first try. I was so impressed. To listen once to a song, figure out the beats and rhythms, and then play it is huge for us. And we didn’t just play the bass notes. We played it, top and bottom, beat and counterpoints. It was nice to see the smiles on the dancers’ faces, and to see the confidence the drummers had in laying that beat down.

It is almost like all this practice is working…


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