The mechanics or beginnings of the Dance

While I have been dancing for a while, I find it hard to describe how to dance. However, since I have been teaching ME dancing to those wanting to learn in Stormhold on the 2nd & 4th Thurdays, I have had to teach from the beginning. Bellydancing is mostly posture, controlled shifting of weight and different parts of the body and practice.

So we start with the very beginning.

Posture

The chest is up but not out, with shoulders relaxed but back. The feet are slightly apart, but with the toes loose (must be able to lift them off the ground to be standing properly) and the arch lifted. The knees are bent and kept soft throughout the dance. It is a rare move that requires the leg to be straight. The pelvis is tucked forward, to relieve any strain in the lower back. The elbows are out, so the arms frame the body.

It is from this neutral position that moves are done.

Arms

There are four sections of the arms to dance with- the fingers, the wrists, the elbows and the shoulders. A good rule is that if you use arms, then don’t use your fingers. If you use your fingers, don’t use your arms. Too much!

The secondary position of arms is with the elbows and wrists up to shoulder height, palms down.The elbows are usually bent to a 90 degree angle or kept with a slight bend and almost fully extended. The fingers are kept strong, with the middle finger held a little down, separate from the rest. the thumb tucks in the next to the palm.

This picture is of tribal arms. A lot of “tribal” style jewelery is worn, like kuchie jewelery. However, they are only about one hundred years old or so. They are also heavy and large, so arms movements can be strained.

Snake arms are a well known move in the dance. So very well known. What is not very well known is the correct way of performing it. So- basic posture with the arms framing the body. Lift from the elbow but the shoulder is to remain relaxed. The wrist does not move. Raise the elbow as far you can then roll under and roll arm down gently. So the easy way is to “sweep the floor with your hand then paint the wall”.

This is a Youtube clip which teaches snake arms. However, there are many dvds to help with arms, available through Amazon here.

Hips 

So many moves are made from the hips. Hips can be used to do lifts, drops, circles and figure 8 (horizontally and vertically). And these are beginner moves! So hip lifts are done from basic posture (or neutral), knees bent. Straighten out one knee while also contracting the oblique muscle in the abdomen. Keep the movement isolated from the rest of the body. It may help to put your hands on your shoulders. Release to neutral. Do the other side. As you improve, you will learn full isolation and start to use gluts to sharpen the movement on the side of the lift.

Hip drops also start from the basic posture, but you drop the hip instead of lift. So the hip is lifted on the other side (just a bit) but the emphasis is on the drop. Try the other side. As you improve, you can use gluts to sharpen the movement but instead of on the drop side, on the “lift” side (as opposed to lifts!). Here is a Youtube clip for both lifts and drops.

Hip circles- start in basic posture, but with arms in the secondary position (so they don’t get in the way). Leaving the feet firmly planted on the floor, shift your weight to the right, pushing out the hip (but not until you are uncomfortable). Move the weight back to both feet while rolling the hips to the front. The shift your weight to the left, rolling the hips to the left. Back to both feet with the hips to the back (but do not tilt your pelvis back as this will damage the lower back). Do not start with the pelvis forward! Always start on the side. The move can be reversed by following the instructions in reverse! Try to keep the hips isolated. Again keep your hands on your shoulders until you perfect the move. Another Youtube clip to help here.

Figure 8s- can be done horizontally or vertically. Horizontally- start in the basic posture with your arms in secondary position. Like the hip circles, keep feet on floor while shifting weight to the right foot, pushing right hip out and forward (or sliding). However, only gently twist one side of the hip forward. Once you get the one side as forward as it can go comfortably, slide through the diagonal until the left hip is pointing to the back, while shifting the weight to the left foot. With the weight on the left foot gently push the left hip out and forward. Once forward, slide diagonally along until the right hip is pointing back and the weight is shifted to the right foot. These are inward horizontal figure 8s. Outward figure 8s start with the right hip forward and out, sliding to the back, then pushing through the diagonal so the left hip is pointed forward. The left hip then rolls back, then pushing on the diagonal until the right hip is forward. Here is a Youtube clip to explain.

Vertical figure 8- Uses the hip lift and the slide. Both feet on the floor, tense your oblique muscle on the right side, then slide the hip over and out. Then slowly release and drop, crunching the other side oblique, lifting up and then sliding out. Drop slowly and down, and squeeze th other side. And continue! This is a good Youtube clip for your vertical (or Mayan) figure 8.

Undulations

These are not done with the back (which puts a very big strain on if done that way) but with the abdominal muscles. If you know the structure of the abs, there are ones just under the rib cage, behind the belly button and between the hip bones. Undulations, going down starts with pulling in the abs just under the rib cage, then the belly button, then the lower abs. Then gently release. Undulations going up start with the lower abs, then behind the belly button then the upper abs and gently release. Very good exercise! Eventually the pelvis does rock with the release of the muscles but the move is not done with the back. It can also be done with a chest lift, to emphasis the move. The undulation can be walked, done in a move called the camel walk, which involves levels and undulating between them. This is a Youtube video to help teach undulations, but it doesn’t cover reverse undulations. The feet can be lifted during an undulation- so it can be very easy to travel with it. This is a Youtube clip about how to camel.

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