In the beginning, belly dancing movements can be very challenging, what with having to isolate movements of different muscle groups for example, moving the hips in circle but keeping the chest, upper torso and legs steady. But as one devotes more time to belly dancing while regularly attending sessions, the muscles lengthen and become flexible, making it easy to isolate movements naturally and more gracefully. Below are some basic drills that one can begin to master.
Basic Belly Dance Posture
Stand with feet apart following the width of your hip. Keep your back straight, lengthen and contract the abdominals and tuck the tailbone in while squeezing the buttocks. Knees must be slightly bent while weight is evenly distributed over both feet.
The hip circle is found in all versions of belly dancing from Turkish to African, Egyptian to cabaret. It can be done in small or big circles depending on the dance fitness routine.
This exercise movement is a great way to trim the waist, make the hips flexible and lighten the tension in the lower back.
The movement begins with the basic belly dance posture. Then shift the weight to the left leg while you further bend the right knee and simultaneously gracefully push the left hip further out to the left. Next, shift your weight to the front with both knees slightly bent, pushing your abdominals out but keeping the right and left hip straight and steady. Once more, shift your weight on the right leg this time and bend your left knee as you push your right hip out to the right. Complete the hip circle by shifting your weight once more to the center, straightening your knees a bit and contracting your lower abdominal. Do the steps indicated above in continuing, smooth, circular movement and in both direction.
While doing the hip circle, the chest must be steady and lifted and the shoulders relaxed at all times.
Chest Slide with Chest Lift and Drop Variations
The chest slide and variations thereof called the chest lift and drop visibly demonstrates the main principle of belly dancing which is muscle isolation. While the chest slide, chest lift and drop, are being done, other muscle groups like the abdominals, hips, torso, thighs and legs must be still and steady. This drill helps build strength in the upper abdominals while improving the posture.
Having a coin hip scarf helps determine whether you are doing the chest slide, lift and drop properly. Take care that not a single sound comes from the coin hip scarf while doing this drill. Any sound means that you have to work harder to keep your hips still while doing this drill.
The chest slide begins with the basic belly dance posture. Keep your hips still, lengthen and contract your abdominals and slide your chest to the left. Then slide back to the right. Keep a smooth, not a sharp movement all throughout the drill.
When you do the chest lift and drop, start with the basic belly dance posture. Breathe in as you lift your ribcage and lengthen your upper abdominals and breathe out as you contract your upper abdominals and drop your rib cage. All the while, the back remains straight.
The chest lift and drop is analogous to abdominal crunches as it works out the upper abdominals but its advantage is having no stress and tension placed on the neck or back. Beginners can place their hands on their hips while dong this drill.
This is a basic belly dance drill and has variations based on muscle groups being exercised e.g. leg shimmy, hip shimmy and shoulder shimmy. The objective is to loosen muscle stiffness while the aim is to master the shimmy so that regardless of the muscle group that is exercised, the shimmy becomes a smooth vibration.
Shoulder Shimmy – Begin with the basic belly dance posture. Then move one foot slightly forward. Lift both arms to shoulder height and bring them to the sides, relax your neck and keep your back straight throughout the drill. Push your right shoulder forward and back alternating with the left shoulder. While doing this drill, make sure that only the alternate shoulders move forward and back, keeping the arms relaxed at shoulder height and other muscle groups still including the hips, chest, back and abdomen. Practice and speed up the shoulder shimmy to a rhythmic movement.
Leg Shimmy – Begin with the basic belly dance posture. Raise both arms to shoulder height and bring them to the sides, relax your neck and keep your back straight throughout the drill. Push your right knee forward and back alternating with the knee. While doing this drill, make sure that only the alternate knee and thigh muscles move forward and back, keeping the arms relaxed at shoulder height and other muscle groups still including the hips, chest, back and abdomen. Practice and speed up the leg shimmy to a rhythmic movement
This drill is a great way to improve arm and shoulder flexibility. To begin, stand with one leg slightly forward while keeping your knee slightly bent. Lift your right shoulder, rolling it back as you raise your right elbow. Flick the wrist up and gracefully lower your shoulder, elbow and wrist. While in the process of lowering your right shoulder, lift the opposite left shoulder and repeat the same movement.
The chest camel is one of the best ways to tone abdominal without straining the neck or back. Begin by standing with hands on your hip then move one foot slightly forward. Lengthen your upper abdominal and push your chest forward. Then, lengthen your abdominal further and lift the chest. Next, pull your chest back slightly and drop it by contracting your abdomen. Make sure not to arch the back and keep the lower body and hips still while doing this drill. The end result is a smooth circular chest movement and the steps include lengthening the abdominals and pushing the chest forward, up, back and down.