Magency: The Oriental Entrance
A magency (sometimes spelled magencie, mergence, mergenci, mejance, or mergeance) is a piece of music used specifically for a dancer’s entrance.
About The Magency
Magencies are often composed for a specific dancer, to highlight her strengths, or for a specific show, as a “preview” of the show sections to come. The magency is recognizable by its structure and rhythmic changes, which we’ll discuss in more depth below.
- Hip Drops
- Folkloric section
- Wow Moment
This presents a challenge for the average Western dancer. We want to use these rich compositions with their exciting rhythmic varieties, but our shows are very short. A restaurant or event dancer might have a set that’s only 15 minutes long; a dancer in a hafla show or recital might have only 5 minutes of stage time.
Shorter magencies are becoming available, most notably Jalilah’s Stage Cuts CD, which offers a selection of some of the most beloved classics from her other CDs — including cherished magencies like Mashaal, Ranet el Khulkhal, and Eshta Ya Amar, among others — pre-trimmed to fit 5 minute time slots.
The first section of the magency is not meant to be danced to. This music lets the audience know that the dancer is coming, and builds anticipation. In a supper club, the orchestra would play for a minute or two to allow patrons to find their seats, flag down their waiters, return from the restroom, etc. This “two minute warning” is similar to the lights flashing in a theater — which is why the overture can go on for as long as two minutes before the dancer appears.
But all that fanfare is overkill if you’re dancer #11 in a lineup and the audience is already in their seats. This is why Western dancers either trim the overture (using software like Audacity) or find a way to dance to it. Unless you’re opening or headlining the show, you probably shouldn’t leave the stage empty for more than 30 seconds.
After the overture, a fast 2/4 rhythm comes in to drive the dancer onstage. Malfuf (Dun TEK TEK) is the classic choice, but a fast ayub is also common. The dancer sweeps in and circles the stage, greeting her audience. Nothing fancy happens yet — the dancer is just smiling, connecting with the audience, filling the room with presence, letting everyone see her costume, and taking possession of the stage or performance area.
Now it’s time to for 16-32 counts of hip drops. This section is nearly always masmoudi seghir rhythm (widely known as “beledi” in the US – Dun DUN tekatek DUN tekatek) which is the universal cue to bellydancers everywhere to drop their hips (or start clapping the rhythm, if they’re in the audience).
For the sake of being different, of course, a magency might be arranged with a different rhythm after the entrance. Usually this will be a 4/4 rhythm closely related to masmoudi seghir, like maksoum or a light Saidi. Personally, I would still do hip drops.
The hip drops tells the audience that the meet & greet is over and the dancing is going to begin now.
The rest of the piece will feature a lively collection of rhythms and instruments. The primary verse contains the main melody of the song, and it will repeat several times.
After the hip drops, you’ll hear the first verse (which is usually the primary verse) and you can sweep into your dance.
The remainingsections are not arranged in any particular order, but it’s very common to find a folkloric section near the middle of your magency. Saidi is most common, followed by Khaleegy, but anything is possible. If you aren’t certain of your ability to recognize folkloric music, ask a mentor or post your question on an online discussion group and ask (or choose one of the magencies I’ve broken down for you below).
You don’t have to dance straight folklore to a folkloric section, but if you don’t at least nod to the style in some way, your audience will assume you didn’t understand your music, and they’ll feel uncomfortably embarrassed for you.
Don’t make your audience uncomfortable. Once you’ve done a step or two to let the audience know that you’re on top of things, they can relax and you can do whatever you want for the rest of the section.
The Wow Moment
Usually you’ll find a dramatic Wow Moment built into the magency, when you’re meant to take the audience’s breath away (hey, no pressure though!). This will usually happen near the end of the composition, and it will be followed with a repeat of one of the verses and then a quick 15-30 second finale.
The Wow Moment can vary wildly. It might be a drum solo, some melody that invites fast spins, an emotional snippet of a famous Oum Kalthoum song, a juicy slow masmoudi kebir section, or even zar music.
Of course, it’s also possible to have an entire magency without a wow moment, if the composer was feeling especially dignified.
The magency usually ends with 30 to 90 seconds of music that echoes the entrance section. Many CDs meant for shows include a separate finale track that matches the magency, so your restaurant show can be bookended between the magency and finale.
If you’re not given a separate finale track, you can easily open your magency in Audacity, lop off the end into its own track, and start bookending your restaurant shows like a boss.
Rakasni Ya Habibi
Rakasni Ya Habibi is a modern-sounding magency with a Khaleegy section. In this video, a khaleegy rhythm comes in at 1:55 (it actually starts at 2:04 on the music track). Anya acknowledges the rhythm with a couple of Khaleegy-flavored movements, but by 2:05 she drops the folklore and starts dancing to the melody. There’s a tiny drum solo, too, but the real WOW moment is a super juicy slow accordian section that comes in around 3:45.
Rakasni Ya Habibi is available on several albums:
In this Raks Mimi clip, Lorena Sedran (or the video editor) has trimmed off the overture, which is a full minute of the original track. Lorena’s entrance, hip drops, and sweeping away from her spot to begin the melody are classic perfection. The folklore section, which comes in at the 2:50 mark on this video (3:46 on the original track) , is a Saidi rhythm. Lorena nods to the folklore with two “pony steps” at 2:55 and then does her own (utterly non-folkloric) thing for the rest of the Saidi section. The Wow Moment comes in the form of a mini drum solo beginning at 3:30, and Lorena builds it up by circling her spot and getting the audience clapping before it starts.
Raks Mimi is on Oriental Fantasy Volume 11 and is only available directly from the Cifuentes’ website.
Hilwa Laaba Di
This is Dina’s entrance for the second half of one of her most iconic performances. The entrance music starts around the :25 mark, but Dina doesn’t come in until 1:40. In typical, non-traditional Dina fashion, the obligatory measures of hip drop don’t happen until 6:58, and there’s only a nod to folklore with some cute “could be Saidi, could be debke” kicky steps at 7:20. There’s a nice short 4:30 version of this song on the On Fire CD.
Tales of the Sahara
Tales of the Sahara, danced beautifully here by Christine Yaven of Jakarta, gives us a lovely bit of music for discarding the veil just before the hip drops happen (1:14). This cut from the original skips the overture. Christine nails the Khaleegy section, which begins at 2:24 with several bars of pure folklore. This cut was from a Bellydance Superstars album and isn’t currently available, but the original 11 minute version and a new 4:40 stage cut are both available from Jalilah.
Dina is the master of bursting onstage and seeming happy to discover such a lovely audience waiting for her. Dina does what she wants, so no veil or folklore in her entrance piece — just lots of mini-taxim Wow Moments to showcase the extraordinary technique and emotion that are her signatures. If anyone knows where to get this music, please drop me a comment below!
Some Other Magencies to consider
Traditional: Princess of Cairo (written for Nagwa Fouad)
Avant Garde: Angelika Unveiled (follows the structure, but very Western)