Belly dance, also known as Middle Eastern dance, has grown in popularity well beyond its region of origin. It's easy to understand why so many women have turned to belly dance; it is good exercise, fun to do, and offers an outlet for creative expression as well as the opportunity to dress up in various costumes.
How to Begin
The correct posture is the first thing you need to learn when taking lessons. Your knees should be slightly bent and never locked. Tuck the pelvis, throw your shoulders back, and lift the chest. This posture puts the least amount of stress on the back and allows the freedom of movement needed to isolate the hips and rib cage for crisp, well-defined movements.
Basic Belly Dance Moves
There are two types of shimmies: the shoulder shimmy and the hip shimmy.
Shoulder shimmy: Move your shoulders forward and back, alternating right, left, right left. That's all there is to it!
Hip Shimmy: The hip shimmy is driven by the knees. Maintaining the correct posture with bent knees, move your knees forward and back, alternating right, left, right, left. This causes the hips to move back and forth.
The arms play an important role in belly dance. They can be held in place to frame the torso and help highlight certain moves, and they can move gracefully through the air. Some of the most common arm movements taught in belly dance are snake arms and wrist circles.
Snake arms: Raise your shoulder and elbow first, and then lift the hand. As you start to lower your shoulder and elbow, let your hand continue to move upward so that your elbow bends and your arm makes a waving motion. Lower the arm and the hand. Repeat on the other side, and alternate arms. Make sure that the palms of your hands are always turned toward the floor while doing snake arms.
Wrist circles: Move your hand in a clockwise circle, keeping your wrist as still as possible to isolate and highlight the move. You can do this with one hand or with both hands at the same time, and you can make counterclockwise circles as well. For a more undulating, snakelike movement, you can cup your hands as if you were using them to scrape out the contents of a jar.
Figure eights: Stand with your knees slightly bent and your feet approximately a hip width apart. Slide your right hip forward on a diagonal, then circle it to the right and toward the back on a diagonal. Slide your left hip forward on a diagonal, then circle it to the left and back on a diagonal, drawing a figure eight in the air. As you perform this move, shift your weight from foot to foot, following the movement of your hips, always keeping your hips parallel to the floor. Your upper body remains still during these moves. Figure eights can also be done in reverse. You begin by sliding your right hip toward the back, then moving it to the right and forward. Next, you slide your left hip back, then move it out to the left and then forward.
Hip circles: Stand in the basic belly dance position with your feet about a hip width apart. Circle your hips to the right, forward, left, back, and then return to the right. Be sure to keep your upper torso still to highlight and isolate the move. You can make large or small hip circles, and you can also do this move in reverse.
Slide: The key to performing the head slide is to make sure to keep your shoulders still as you move your head from side to side.
Circles: Just as with the head slide, moving your head without affecting your shoulders is key. In addition, your head should stay on the same horizontal plane as your trace the circle, not moving up or down. Moving your head back and forth in a half circle is another variation.
Free Online Belly Dance Lessons
If you want to learn more about belly dancing, there are a number of online resources.
There are various sites online that offer free instructional lessons in belly dance, including the following:
- Leyla Najma offers free beginner and intermediate belly dance videos.
- Belly Dance Lessons Online offers free e-classes as well as several more advanced courses with a fee attached.
- Tiazza offers free belly dance instruction online.
- Melissa Belly Dance offers fitness and technique videos for belly dancers.
You can subscribe to certain YouTube channels and get an experience that almost mimics that of an actual class. Check out:
- Talladancers offers videos that focus on a specific move, like belly rolls, Egyptian walk, or hip twists.
- BellyDanceB provides videos from different belly dancers.
- Danomoon offers lessons and performance videos.
- Sahira provides videos that teach posture and various moves, like undulations, shimmies, and floor work.
Benefits of Belly Dance
With its undulating movements and isolations, belly dance celebrates the feminine and can increase self-confidence. It is a low-impact exercise, beneficial for any weight or shape. Belly dancing on a regular basis can help you become more fit, because it can reduce blood pressure, improve circulation, and promote weight loss. This dance form also makes exercise fun, and the more enjoyable an exercise is, the more often you'll want to do it. If you're looking for an enjoyable way to get in shape, or if you just want to release your inner diva, belly dancing might be just what you need.