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Here is an article I found that describes the basics of belly dance. Enjoy!

Core Belly Dance Moves Most belly dancing is derived from one or more of the following 12 movements, along with their many variations. By practicing the "Basic 12", you'll master the core movement vocabulary for all styles of traditional and modern belly dance.

Basic Staccato Hip Moves 1) Hip Twist 2) Hip Bump (Hip Thrust) 3) Up & Down Hips

Basic Rolling Hip Moves 4) Hip Figure 8's 5) Basic Hip Circle 6) Vertical Hip Circle

Basic Ribcage Circles 7) Horizontal Ribcage Circle 8) Diagonal Ribcage Circle 9) Vertical Ribcage Circle With Undulation

Basic Arm, Shoulder, and Head Moves 10) Arm Waves 11) Shoulder Rotations With Arm Ripples (Snake Arms) 12) Head Slide

Although belly dancers may simply hold their arms, shoulders, and head in graceful positions as they dance, actual movements of these areas are beautiful whether performed all by themselves, or layered with other belly dance body moves. Here are the core moves that form the foundation for many upper body techniques. They can be performed in a variety of belly dance stances and postures 1) Belly Dance Arm Waves Arm waves are semi-circular, wave-like motions of a belly dancer's arms and hands. Although the basic arm wave is done in a complete half-circle pattern, belly dancers will more often use an abbreviated version by moving the arms in less than a complete half-circle. However, if you start by practicing the complete half-circle movement, you'll strengthen your arms for a wider range of motion in freestyle arm moves and other belly dancing arm techniques. Arm waves and arm ripples are most often done to slower tempos of melodic belly dancing music.

Belly Dance Forward Arm Wave To do a forward arm wave, use your arms to trace a full half circle in front of your body, with each arm moving in opposition to each other. Stand in good posture with the upper torso vertically aligned to the floor and the ribcage held comfortably upright.

Starting with your right arm, lift it up directly in front of you until the hand is above the head and then bring it down until your hand is down at your side. It's important to keep the arms, elbows, and wrists relaxed so that you can get a wave-like motion - you don't want your arms to be stiff and straight. The wrist flips up and back at your upper-most point above your head, and then will flip down and forward as you bring it to your lower-most position. Now try the same move with your left arm. Once you get the feel of doing it with both arms individually, you can try the full movement using both arms moving in opposition to each other. Bring the right arm up so the hand is above your head and the wrist flips. As you start to bring the right arm down, the left arm goes up, and vice versa. When one arm is waving up, the other is waving down. To get the correct flow of energy for many belly dance arm movements, you can create resistance by imagining you are doing them under water. Other arm poses and movements are freestyle belly dance moves.

Belly Dance Side-To-Side Arm Wave The side-to-side arm wave is similar to the forward arm wave, but the semi-circle is traced on each side of your body. Standing in good posture, raise your right arm out to your side, then above your head where your wrist will flip up and back. As your right arm goes down, the left arm rises up and vise versa. Try not to think too hard about what you are doing, but instead relax and feel the flow of energy going from your shoulders, through your arms, wrists, and fingers. The trickiest part of belly dance arm waves

is to relax enough to allow the wrists to flip naturally up and back at the upper most point of the move, and then down and forward at the lowest point. With enough repetitions, a movement will become part of your muscle memory and then every part of the move will become automatic when belly dancing.

2) Shoulder Rotation With Arm Ripple The arm ripple, sometimes called snake arms, is most visible in the arms, but is actually created in the shoulders in a motion that spirals out through the arms, hands, and fingertips. Start with one arm held horizontally out to the side. Rotate the shoulder in a small circle that is vertical to the ground. The shoulder will roll forward, up, back, and down. Allow the energy to spiral out from the shoulder through the elbow, wrist, and hand, exiting out at your fingertips. Try the other shoulder - forward, up, back, and down. To do the full movement, coordinate the shoulders so that when one is rolling forward, the other shoulder is rolling back. It takes practice to get a smooth flowing action from one shoulder to the other. Remember to keep the elbows, wrists, and hands relaxed to allow the energy to flow from the shoulder through the elbow and wrist, and out through the fingertips.

3) Head Slide

The head slide will prepare you for greater flexibility in all your head movements and can be performed to rhythm or melody and to all tempos of belly dancing music. It's easiest to learn the head slide if your arms are in the temple pose. For the basic temple pose, the arms are held up vertically with the elbows slightly bent and the palms together lined up directly over the head. For the head slide, isolate your head and slide it in a straight line from side to side. It's similar to pretending you are trying to touch your ear to the inside of your elbow. Just try small movements at first, and keep your head level - don't twist or tilt your head. It's easier to do if you don't overly tense your neck and facial muscles. In addition, if you are belly dancing for an audience, their attention is focused on your face during a head slide and you want to make sure that your facial expression is relaxed, not tense.

Belly Dance Posture and Basic Stance It's very important to use proper posture in belly dance. There are a variety of ways you can stand for your rolling hip moves, but basic stance is the posture belly dancers use most often.

Basic Belly Dance Stance: Stand with your feet apart, about shoulder width apart with both feet flat on the ground and your toes pointing forward. You should feel comfortable with your weight equally distributed between both feet. Your knees should be ever so slightly bent but they should feel relaxed,

flexible and ready for movement. Your hips and pelvis should be centered and level to the ground. Finally, your ribcage should be pulled gently up with the stomach held but comfortable, and shoulders relaxed.

It is important to note your center axis or vertical body alignment. To help, visualize a line running from the top of your head, through the center of your torso, and exiting between your feet.

There are many arm positions and arm movements that can accompany basic belly dance stance, but when you are first perfecting the core move, it's easiest to just hold the arms in a graceful and comfortable pose.

Everyone's body type is unique. If necessary, make subtle adjustments to your stance so that you feel comfortable, centered, and balanced for your belly dancing.

Belly Dance Isolation Techniques It's easiest to learn the core moves of belly dance by first isolating them. That is, moving only the area of the body necessary for the core belly dance move and keeping the rest of the body still. By isolating the belly dance move, you can perfect it in its most basic form and later add other body moves as you increase the complexity of your belly dancing performance. For the basic belly dance rolling hip moves, you can isolate by keeping the upper body still and just moving from the hips down.

1) Belly Dance Hip Figure 8's There are 2 basic types of figure 8 hip rolls in belly dance, the horizontal and the vertical. It's best to learn each type in its most basic form before you try learning creative variations.

Horizontal Hip Figure 8 - Back-To-Forward Version he horizontal figure 8 is also called a forward & back or hip-twisting figure 8 in belly dance. Standing in a comfortable basic stance, pretend that a large figure 8 is painted on the floor and you are standing in the middle of it, with one circle of the 8 to your right side and the other circle to your left side. Isolate your hips and twist your right hip back, slide it out to the side and twist it forward. This puts you in position to repeat the belly dance move on your left side - the left hip is now twisted back, and you can slide out to the side, and twist it forward. When you complete the belly dance movement on one hip, it

automatically positions the other hip to repeat the movement so that you can continuously flow from one hip to the other in a fluid manner. Keep your hips level to the ground as you trace your figure 8. It's also important to keep the legs and knees relaxed so that your hips have freedom of movement.

Horizontal Hip Figure 8 - Forward-To-Back For a forward-to-back version, you can reverse the direction of your figure 8. Isolate your hips and twist your right hip forward, slide out to the side and twist it back. Repeat on your left hip which is now twisted forward, by sliding it out to the side, and twisting backward. Continue from one hip to the other, making a fluid figure 8.

Vertical Hip Figure 8 - Down-To-Up Version

The vertical figure 8 is also called an up & down figure 8. To do the down-to-up version of the vertical figure 8, pretend that you are facing a wall with an infinity symbol painted on it. It looks like a figure 8 lying on its' side with one loop of the 8 to the right and the other loop to the left.

Assume the basic belly dance stance and push your right hip down, slide it out to the side, lift it up, and then pull it back to its starting point in your centered basic stance. Repeat with the left hip. Push the left hip down, slide it out to the side, lift it up, and bring it back to center. The legs and knees will be pulled up and down with this move, so keep them flexible. Your feet will also be pulled up and down, with your heels coming up off the floor.

Let your heel lift up as the hip on that side of the body lifts up. As the hip rolls downward, the heel drops flat to the ground. The same thing repeats on the other side of the body. Make sure you do not twist your hips in a vertical figure 8; instead your hips will face forward at all times. Practice until the movement flows gracefully from one side to the other.

Vertical Hip Figure 8 - Up-To-Down Version

For the up-to-down version of the vertical hip figure 8 (sometimes called a 'Maya' figure 8), you can reverse the direction of your hip move. Your hips will now start by lifting up, sliding out to the side, dropping down, and going back to center and repeating smoothly on the other side. It is possible to do

this movement with the feet flat at all times. Rather than allowing the heels to lift up, keeping the feet flat is more difficult for many bellydancers and forces you to lower your center of gravity by bending your knees more and to use the upper leg and lower torso muscles more deeply.

2) Belly Dance Hip Circle

In the basic hip circle, we use our hips to trace a small to medium sized circle that is horizontal to the ground. You can stand in a basic belly dance stance, but a straight leg stance is often easier when you are first learning the hip circle. The straight leg stance is the same as the basic stance, but with the knees held straight (but never locked). In the stance of your choice, isolate your hips and slide them out to your right side; push them back and to your left side; push them forward and to your right side again as you complete your circle. Keep your upper torso vertically aligned to the floor as you trace the circle and try to keep your hips as level as you comfortably can. Keep repeating the move sliding to your right side, then back, to the left side, and then forward until you achieve a smooth continuous circle.

3) Vertical Belly Dance Hip Circle (Bicycle Hips)

A vertical hip circle is also called bicycle hips. Isolate your hips in basic stance and lift your right hip up, roll forward, push down, push back, and then up to your starting point, tracing a circle that is vertical to the floor. In this movement, your heel will be lifted up off the floor as the hip rolls up and pushed down as the hip rolls down, similar to pedaling a bicycle. This movement is best viewed from the working side of body, and unlike our figure 8's, the circle is usually perform on one hip only. However, for the best exercise benefits, practice the move on both the right and left hips. Whichever hip is the easier one to work is the one you'll use most often while belly dancing to music.

All circular movement in belly dance can be done clockwise or counter-clockwise. Being proficient with both directions gives your circular moves a wider range of variation for your belly dancing and better exercise benefits.

Belly Dance Isolation Techniques

It's helpful to learn the core moves by first isolating them: that is, moving only the area of the body necessary for the core move and keeping the rest of the body still. By isolating the move, you can

perfect it more easily and later can add other body moves as you increase the complexity of your bellydancing. For the basic staccato hip moves, you can isolate by keeping the upper body still and just moving from the hips down.

1) Hip Twist

Standing in basic stance, isolate your right hip and twist or swivel it forward. Keep the hips level as you twist, putting a little snap in the forward motion, but not too hard at first. When the right hip twists forward, the left hip twists back. You can work the left hip by twisting it forward which causes the right hip to twist back. You can also alternate hips, first twisting one forward, then the other. One side of the body is usually easier to work than the other side, but it's beneficial to practice working both sides. Although our staccato hip movements focus on the hips, they cause a slight reaction in the knees, so don't lock the knees straight or tense them up.

2) Up and Down Hips

Standing in basic stance, move your right hipbone straight upward and then downward. Try to move in as vertical a line as possible. Do not twist forward and back or bump out to the side. Keep the upper torso still. When the right hip snaps upward, the left hip goes down. If you work your left hip upward, the right hip moves down. Muscles in the upper legs and lower torso will work together to push and pull the knees up and down, so keep the knees especially relaxed and receptive for this move. If the knees aren't allowed to react, this inhibits the hip action.

3) Hip Bump (Hip Thrust)

Stand in basic stance, isolate your lower torso, and bump or thrust your right hip straight out to the side and slightly up. It's as though you're bumping a door shut with your hip and putting a little snap into it. Alternate working one hip and then the other. Although you'll favor one hip, practicing by working both hips will give you a more balanced exercise and more options in your dance. Keep the upper torso still and the feet flat. Concentrate on using the muscles that make your hips move; that is, the muscles in the upper leg, pelvic, and buttocks region. Although staccato hip moves cause a reaction in the knees, don't use your knees to initiate the moves.

The more you relax for these, or other belly dancing moves, the faster you will learn. Never try too hard. Many of the core belly dance moves have been used for centuries in the informal dancing and folk dancing of the peoples of the Middle East. In the first half of the twentieth century, nightclubs in Egypt formalized these core moves into a nightclub, or entertainment dance called Raks Sharki (translated as 'dance of the East', 'dance of the Orient', or 'Oriental dance'). It was the Arabic movie industry, based mostly in Cairo, and the Middle Eastern belly dance stars performing in Arabic and Turkish nightclubs, that helped introduce Oriental dance around the world.

The Moves: Egyptian style belly dance uses the belly dance moves and core belly dance techniques in a generally refined and subtle manner, especially in older versions of the dance. The Egyptian belly dancer strives for artistic, emotional interpretations of the music and friendly interaction with her audience. Modern versions of Egyptian belly dance have become more westernized with the addition of some techniques from forms such as ballet, pop, and Hollywood musicals. Most Egyptian belly dancers seldom use finger cymbals, extensive veil dancing, or floor work (which is illegal in Egypt). Props are rare with the exception of Raks Assaya (cane dance) and Raks Shamadan (candelabra dance).

Music: In nightclub Raks Sharki, the dancers perform to large orchestras that play Arabic music. There are a variety of instruments including dumbeks (Arabic hand drums), kanoon (stringed instrument), violins, ouds (similar to a guitar), mizmars (a horn instrument). In more modern styles of music, Western instruments are sometimes added such as keyboards and electronic instruments. A typical performance can last 30 minutes or more, and there is a great variety of tempos, rhythms, and melodies for the bellydancer to interpret. More modern styles of Raks Sharki music can include elements of American or World-beat music.

Costume: Since the 1950s, it has been illegal in Egypt, for bellydancers to perform publicly with their abdomens uncovered. Costumes for Raks Sharki are usually a long, one-piece gown or a two-piece outfit (a decorated bra top and skirt) with a sheer body stocking covering the midsection. In either case, the costumes are usually elaborate and elegant, with rich fabrics lavished with beadwork, jewels, and beaded fringe. Beaded belts are usually sewn directly onto the skirt and there are matching accessories such as necklaces, arm and ankle bracelets, earrings, and headpieces. The look for Raks Sharki is glamorous and feminine.

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