Belly dancing is all about the female body; from building body confidence, to helping maintain a level of fitness that even improves things like pregnancy and child birth, this ancient art form was developed with the female in mind. Even if you have no intention of becoming a public performer, this form of dance provides an endless array of benefits that has it gaining a wider appreciation in fitness today.
Probably the most frustrating thing about learning belly dance is finding reliable places to get started. Videos and books cost money, courses even more. While these avenues are both highly recommended, you can begin learning the basics of belly dance right now – I’m going to share with you how. The basics we will cover in this article focus on posture, placement of limbs, feet, and hands.
Before You Dance
Before you actually begin to dance, you need to know how to hold yourself. As with any type of fitness routine (which dance, I assure you, definitely is), you need to learn a new kind of posture, and warm up to the exercises using this posture.
In belly dance, the proper posture works like this:
1. Plant your feet flat and firmly on the floor. Your feet can be bare, or you can wear dance shoes that completely cover the sole of your feet.
2. Point your toes forward, to protect your knees.
3. Move your feet outward slightly, so that they are placed at about hip’s width. Keep your knees loose and relaxed.
4. Keep your back straight and your arms very loose.
5. Hold your head evenly, not allowing it to drop back or forward; think of a ballerina.
Now that you’ve got the right posture, begin your warm up. Do not jump into strenuous stretching; instead, begin with neck rolls. Do about 8 in each direction. Then, move on to arm rolls, leg rolls, etc. Next, make small circles with your hips; while you do these, imagine that a cord is attached to your head and shoulders – nothing should move much except your hips. Take your time, about five minutes or so, to really loosen yourself up. Finish the gentle stretches off with a good all-over shake and a smile.
Taking my words and trying them out is one thing. Really understanding how straight your back needs to be held is another. To get a better grip of how your posture should feel, try this exercise:
1. Stand with your back to the wall. Your heels, buttocks, and shoulders should touch the wall, but head does not have to.
2. Keep your chin level, but try to pull your neck up and forwards just a bit.
3. Release all tension in your legs, and flex your knees slightly.
4. Concentrate on your balance for a moment; let your heels take about 70% of your body weight.
5. Take a few quiet, deep breaths and let your hands hang lower and lower on your thighs.
6. Close your eyes for a moment, and really “feel” how your body is standing, what the placement of your limbs are, how your back is aligned. Then, take a few steps away from the wall – do not lose your posture.
The feeling of this new posture will feel strange at first, since it moves the weight on your feet to the back. With practice, you will begin using this posture without a single thought. It is widely felt that practicing this technique alone dispels stress instead of storing it.
Hand and Arm Exercise
The hands and arms of a belly dancer can be mesmerizing. They are elegant, graceful, moving in circles or figures to the music, dropping to enhance the sudden thrusts of the hips which might match a drum beat. Fingers and the way they are held often vary from dancer to dancer, and will change slightly depending on the dance move they are performing. Largely, the differences lie in the fact that since every woman’s body is different, the movements she uses to accentuate her body will be different too – playing up the positive.
First, find a good “posture” for your fingers. To do this, loosen up your hands and shake them vigorously – and stop suddenly. Hold the position of your fingers. Does it look nice? Is it comfortable? It might be what you want to start with.
Next, start learning to make your arms relaxed. Hold your arms parallel, at shoulder height, and make a snake, or ripple motion. Start with the fingers of your right hand, allow the ripple to travel over your wrist, up your right arm, past the elbow, over the shoulder and across the back into your left shoulder. The wave then travel down your left arm, past the elbow to the wrist, and ending in the fingertips. Practice this movement until you can execute the motion without moving your head or pausing; there should be no sudden jerks, and if you look in the mirror you should see the look of a snake passing through your arms.
Break this movement down, too, practicing with one arm at a time in front of the mirror. Remember to smile – it makes you feel better!
~These are the very most basic movements in belly dance: the posture, and the Arm and Hand movements. Learning how to use both of these together is a perfect step in the right direction for a beginner. Make sure that you are keeping yourself loose, calm, and relaxed. Don’t forget your smile; no one else has one like you do!