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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Belly Dance Practice On The Go

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).

While walking:

- 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 :)


  1. Oh, we have a different name for Ava's sassy thought of by a student a while back. Less subtle than Ava's and you need to be from Denver to get it...the Colfax walk. It's actually a backward 8 while walking forward, procedure as you explained, pushing hip circle isolation way out from lower obliques and muscles over hip bones. Then hands can be placed behind head with elbows out, kind of cutsey style for extra umph and "Colfaxness"...sorry, don't mean to be is just fun. But the sassy walk is completely different...

    will add to your "Bellydance practice for dummies in a bit." Maybe we should start a page on fb for more responces.

  2. Interesting! You'll have to show me the Colfax walk sometime :) The sassy walk is pretty subtle and controlled.

    I was thinking of starting a FB page called Shimmy, Goddess! Where we could all contribute info... but I figured there's probably a lot of pages already like that. I'd love to collaborate with you though!

  3. Forward Body Wave: A few of my students have said they were able to learn forward body waves (with or without ending in a chest snap) in the car. Since when sitting, your pelvis is already tucked, with arms a bit firm and both on steering wheel for some resistance...push or roll tucked pelvis and hip bones slightly forward moving up and engaging muscles through lower abdominals, into obliques, diaphragm to ribs to chest lift and forward a bit. The holding on to the steering wheel and having seat back behind you, helps to feel the undulation moving up through sections the correct way and through entire torso...arms on wheel help control and make it easy to end with a soft chest lift or a snap or lock. Could even end with a thoracic throw, but careful...that could be an ouch if the girls hit steering wheel. wow, that was alot to explain,would rather demonstrate...

  4. Excellent tip! Thanks for taking the time to explain that :) I understand perfectly from your great description.

  5. They say "a watched pot never boils"??? Never have understood that's fun to shimmy and vibrate, using different qualities of intensity and different types of shimmies, freezes, vibrations etc,,,provoked by what the moving liquid looks or sounds like..while waiting for something to boil, steam or sizzle...hey, just thought of some new names for shimmy variations...boiling shimmy, steamy/steaming shimmy or sizzle shimmy. Ok, now I am really going a bit overboard..

  6. yep, the colfax walk is not a subtle one and only to be done for certain effects...another one I have my beginner students do to loosen them up if the need it is the "not in the office walk." I am sure you can imagine. It usually produces some laughs which probably is what loosens them up more than anything...:-)

  7. Had to write one more before I go to teach...this one is extremely effective and important for preventing or at least delaying carpal tunnel or repetitive motion syndrome. Small wrist circles and tiny undulations through the wrists, fingers and arms many times throughout the day or whenever arms and hands begin to feel stagnant or tight from using the mouse, typing or whatever is overdone at work or otherwise. The wrist circles don't have to be big and obvious but I doubt anyone would care actually...and the undulations can be very small and subtle but trust me, they move energy and actually prevent stiffness and even arthritic pain.

  8. like the elliptical trainer for a few things - for example, practicing upper body carriage while the lower body is moving. Really focus on lifting and supporting the ribs up and away from the hips so they can move freely (I always picture my Nonna's chandelier when I describe this!).
    The elliptical is also a good place to work on stepping on the down beat(dum) for different rhythms. It's great for getting used to "feeling the flow" of 9/8 and 10/8 patterns too.

  9. Thanks Mahin & Rafi'ah for all the wonderful and helpful suggestions!

  10. Also, don't ever waste a stretching to reach something moment, like a high shelf, etc. It's a great time to strengthen legs and calves by standing in releve' and then stretching and lengthening torso with arms reaching above head. Also, switch standing on one leg and then the other in releve'. Of course, if you are tall, you may have to pretend.:-) Since I am a only 5'2", this works well for me.