Hey dancers - frustrated because your budget or time doesn't allow for belly dance class?
Do you spend countless hours behind a computer desk wishing you could be practicing dance instead? Well good news, you can practice isolations just about anywhere!
Sitting at your desk:
- alternating glute squeezes. This is pretty easy to do without anyone noticing (so long as your face isn't making a weird expression :) As you hopefully know, alternating squeezing each butt cheek is a great way to build up your shimmy strength (while also practicing muscle memory). First make sure you have the correct posture. Then focus the mind on right cheek, squeeze and then left. If you can only do it slowly that's just fine, it's still an effective exercise and eventually you'll easily speed up. For more info on glute squeezes see Shira's website.
- pelvic tuck, glute squeeze (both together). Make sure your posture is correct. Sit toward the back of your chair with both feet on the ground hip distance apart. Engage the lower abdominals and squeeze both buttock cheeks to tuck the pelvis. Pelvic tucks are routinely used in many movements in belly dance. Not only will you improve your range of motion but you'll be working a few different muscle groups at once.
- subtle upper body work. If you focus on making the movement small and precise, you can practice chest lifts, slides and circles. It's good practice on making your movements controlled and if someone happens to walk by, it kind of looks like you're just stretching in your chair :)
In the bathroom:
- belly rolls. OK this is bordering on the yucky & TMI but really it kills two birds with one stone. :-) (on the can)
Even if you can't do a full belly roll you can practice isolating upper abdominal muscles from the lower. Push out with upper while pulling in with the lower and vice versa. Or if that's too challenging just work the muscle groups individually. For more info on working up to a belly roll, again Shira's site has great advice.
In the car:
- upper body isolations. Now if you're a beginner and these take your brain power too far from concentrating on driving, I don't recommend trying it. But if you're starting to get these movements, it's a great time-saver (who cares how you look to the car next to you). You can easily practice chest lifts/drops, slides and circles - if you're advanced, chest figure-eights. But please if these impedes your driving, for the sake of all around you, don't do it. :) It's also good to practice the difference between pops and locks with chest isolations (locks - freezing the movement into the locked position, pops - letting the movement bounce a little).
- small hip circles, omis, figure 8's or sassy walk. This is another good time to work on smaller, controlled movements (because let's face it, we don't want to look TOO silly while doing this).
In case you don't know the sassy walk, it's a movement I learned from Ava Fleming. When you take a step on the right leg, the right hip pushes forward and around (a half hip circle). Similarly when stepping on the left leg, the left hip pushes forward and around. This is a subtle movement so to the unknowing observer, you've just got a little hip and sass in your walk.
Figure 8's are a little trickier to try while walking but once you can, working on making the movement small and controlled (usually we learn the movements in a big way so the student can see it well but we want to be able to do them a variety of ways). Similarly with hip circles - when you practice them small and controlled, you'll notice your muscles engaging differently. Since omi's are usually a smaller, controlled interior hip circle, these are easier to practice in public. It's great practice for the bellydancer to incorporate isolations while walking. I have quite frequently moved through the grocery store in this way without anyone noticing (I think).
- belly flutters. Especially if you're wearing a loose top, you won't be noticed walking around practicing flutters. I find these to be very challenging to do without holding my breath, so the more practice the better. I've heard a teacher or two say to hold your breath but when I watch a lot of pros, they seem to be breathing just fine during the flutter. Here's a good tutorial on how to do a belly flutter.
If you are a dancer/teacher/performer and you can think of any other I've forgotten, please let me know in the comments.
Thanks and happy practicing :)