This is what I would like to talk to you about when you first come to class if we had a few more hours and you weren't so keen to get on with the dancing !)  I will always do posture with new students, but the rest I tend to drop in over the weeks.  If you have any questions then email is the best way to talk to me, or we can arrange to have some extra time outside class.--info@letsbellydance.co.uk

 

 

 

Posture

Posture is the first thing we need to work on and one of the hardest things to get right.  You can not get good posture without a teacher to look at you and correct so don't try to learn this on your own--but this should be a good reminder to help you practice once your teacher has set you up.  To begin with it looks very complex and feels a little strange, but you will soon find it easy and comfortable.

   *Feet--a comfortable distance apart.  This should be just under hip width, certainly not wider than your hips and your feet should disappear when you bend your knees.  Some videos suggest that your feet need to be closer and that would be great if thighs didn't get in the way.  Don't put your feet so close that your thighs get squashed (I'm a big lady, I know these things !).  Feet shouldn't turn out like in Ballet, nor face straight forward, but be natural.  Spread out your toes and feel nice and solidly connected with the ground--this is one reason that bare feet are a good idea.

   *Knees--off lock, which means they have a little give.  Don't bend you knees as this is far too much like hard work and will hurt tomorrow, but also don't lock you knees tight as you can do damage by twisting on the knee joints.  Just a little bit of bounce is fine--think about how you stand on a boat to ride the waves, or on the underground.

   *Hips--they are in neutral, which is different for different people but basically means that your tail bone should point down.  I find people fit into two camps when they first come to class--there are those who wear high heels and pull in their bums and tummies all day, they tend to be a bit over tucked for this dance--then there are those who let their tummies and bums stick out a bit more and they tend to be under tucked.  If in doubt don't do anything until your teacher has adjusted you.

   *Pelvic Floor--I won't nag you too much in class and only you know how hard you are working on this, but your pelvic floor should be contracted about 50% (75% if you want to be tough on yourself) for the whole of the lesson (actually for the whole of your life would be good !).  If you find this really hard try just adding it to your movements a couple of times each time we drill (for a count of 8 or 16), building up to being able to use it all the time.  If you don't know how to use your pelvic muscles try stopping yourself mid wee--those are the muscles we use.  Sometimes people are taught how to do the lift with their pelvic floor.  If you know this exercise then try stopping at one of the floors midway and dancing like that.  If you have a  pelvic floor problem or a strong pelvic floor I can give you extra exercises to help build strength.  And yes, men have pelvic floor muscles too !

   *Tummy--to begin with you can relax your tummy, but given time I would like you to be aware of your tummy muscles and to use them about 25% the whole time.  The problem with tightening your tummy muscles is that a lot of people can only do this by holding their breath and that is a really bad idea !  If you can try to imagine you are about to do a sit up--pull your tummy muscles in just a little and then keep them slightly tightened.  But if this is too hard then don't worry for now, but this should improve over time with regular classes.

   *Ribs--we lift our ribs for two reasons, firstly it gives us a nice line (gain a couple of inches to your height, lose a few round your tummy !), and secondly it helps us breath deeply and normally.  Try to take your ribs straight up rather than up and forward.  Supporting with your tummy muscles will help you maintain this lifted posture.

   *Shoulders--roll your shoulders back as far as they will go and then relax.  I know this isn't easy !  Again this helps with breathing and making you look good.  I often talk about opening your wings--by which I mean your invisible Angel wings between your shoulder blades.  When you imagine having huge feathery wings behind you, they help you to frame yourself, look proud and remind you to use your strong back to support all your movements just enough.  There is a temptation to bring your shoulders up as you dance, but try to resist.  This posture of rolled back shoulders and open wings should feel and look relaxed !

   * Head--lift your whole head, keep your chin slightly up and relax your jaw.  Try not to look down at yourself while dancing.  You don't get a good view and actually loose a lot of posture so what you do see is not an example of your best dancing.  If you want to check what you are doing take a look in the mirror.

   * Face--Smile !  Please remember that you (or one of your friends) wanted to come to learn dancing so you are meant to be having fun.  When we perform we need a natural smile and you might as well start practicing from the very start !  Try to get a smile that goes all the way to your eyes.  Don't give me a forced smile otherwise I will worry that you are in pain.

   *Arms--the arms need to be a little way from the body.  Try imagining that you have a small piece of fruit under your armpits (my personal favourite is Lime).  Add some softness around your elbow and wrist--again "off lock"

   *Hands--If you already have beautiful hands from another form of dance (flamenco, bhangra…..) then stick with what you know.  Otherwise it helps if you pretend you are holding anything between a marble and a tennis ball between your thumbs and second fingers.  I do not try to force a particular hand position onto my students.  As a general rule if it looks pretty you can do it--what I hate is "ice-cream scoop" hands--they never look pretty !  The best way to make your hands look pretty is to watch them.  If you take time to admire them yourself others will follow, I know I do it all the time !  Imagine you are the model on a shopping channel and you have to place your hand on a fat velvet cushion all day while wearing huge diamond rings (I wish) - now look how your wrist is soft and your fingers interesting and suddenly you wan to admire your fingers.  That's what I want !

   * Some men find this hand position doesn't suit them and I would encourage them to try to imagine they are holding a pack of fanned cards longways between their thumb and other fingers, this seems to provide the right level of tension without being "pretty".

 

Recap Posture

Feet a comfortable distance apart, knees soft, hips in neutral, tummy relaxed, ribs up, shoulders back, arms soft, interesting hands, chin up and smile !

 

Quick ways to Improve your Posture

If you know your posture is a problem then check these common but easy to solve problems :

   *Do you carry a heavy bag on only one shoulder ?  Get a two shouldered bag or swap every few days--and stop the children carrying heavy school bags on one shoulder too.

   *Do you carry a baby on just one hip--most of us do.  Again try swapping around

   *Do you try to hide or shrink ?, tall ladies often dip their chins or drop their shoulders--be proud to be tall !

   *How do you walk ?, try walking with the posture above (ok, you can drop the pretty hands).  At first it might seem odd, but it will help you strengthen up.  Plus people seem to be attracted to others with good posture--if you are lucky you might turn a few heads !

   *Start thinking about how you sit, walk up stairs, sleep.

    *If you have a serious problem then invest in a trip to see a Chiropractor !

 

 

Breathing for every style of Middle Eastern Dance and Bellydance should be NORMAL--that means you should never puff and pant or get out of breath.  That does not mean that the classes aren't hard work, but you don't need to prove how hard you are working by getting out of breath.  There are some very clever ways of breathing with the dance moves that some people love, but I rarely teach these and believe that most people can find the best way to breath with their movements themselves.  Try to stay calm and relaxed for the whole lesson and breath normally.  It can help by practicing while singing nursery rhymes (not something I make you do in class).  As part of the warm up we do movements that help us relax into our breathing and at the end of the class we take a moment for a few deep breaths to centre ourselves.  Use this at anytime during the lesson if you feel yourself getting out of breath.  I'm also a strong believer in deep, cleansing breathing.  Try to do a set of three ten times a day and see the difference it can make.  When starting classes most people will find themselves getting out of breath during a session, but remember that one reason that people like to see Bellydancers is that we make it look so easy.  It looks easy because we are relaxed.  We are relaxed because we are breathing !

 

Aching and Hurting

After your first lesson your may well find yourself aching.  This is perfectly normal and to be expected of any new activity.  You have probably used muscles that haven't been used for a while or in a way you are not used to using them.  This is most common for tummy muscles, which may feel like tummy cramps.  A bath after class will help, or you may want to re-do the warm up the next morning to help get yourself moving.  What I hope you do not do is hurt.  Nothing we do should ever make you hurt and if you do then I need to hear from you as soon as possible.  The main reasons for hurting are not warming up properly, having an old injury or problem, or not getting the posture right.  This doesn't necessarily mean that you cant keep coming to class, but we need to solve any problems early on.

 

Freedance

My groups know that I place a huge amount of importance on Freedance and Improvisation.  Middle Eastern dance is not generally a choreographed dance form, but a way of people dancing together in a relaxed and casual way.  Even American style Bellydance is designed to be performed in restaurant settings where planning is only useful up to a point and the dancer needs to change direction or movement quickly to fit the setting.  I teach the movements and then help you to learn how to arrange them to fit the music, setting, mood and your body to give you the chance to create something stunning and very personal to you.  This is not an easy thing to do but I strongly believe that starting early gives you the best chance to learn how to be creative and enjoy dancing in this style.  You can find out more about this later in this section.  Please practice your freedance right from the start by getting into the habit of putting on some music when you get home and adlibbing--this is also very good for you !

 

Two Terms to Learn Two Things

One reason I like students to do 20 weeks in beginners and improvers (30 in a drop in) is that I strongly believe that this dance needs two very different skills, Technique and Self Expression.  Most people who come to class are prepared for learning one, but rarely do they expect to have to learn both.  For example when I teach a Figure 8 some of the class will get the movements, the muscles needed, the balance and the isolation, while others will understand the feelings behind it, the flow and the energy.  By leaving the movement for a couple of months and then returning to it most students understand their strengths and weaknesses and can focus on the part of the move that they do not do naturally, giving us much more rounded dancers at the end of the two terms.  If after 20 weeks or so , you don't feel you understand this concept then please come and chat with me.

   *Students who like Technique

   *Students who tend to find the technique side easier can be more aware of how their body works, their joints and muscles and how flexible they are.  They can happily practice movements to almost any type of music or even without music on and find all my talk of energy, ebb and flow a load of hippy nonsense !  They learn best by having the move broken down to them and being able to see if they have it right.

   *Students who like Self Expression

   *These tend to hear the music and instantly want to dance.  They tap their feet and want to move instinctively.  They tell stories to themselves about the move and like the abstract ideas like a move being open or like water flowing.  They find focusing on the muscles means they loose time with the music and its not so much fun.  They can often copy a move having just seen it done once or twice and find describing what they are doing or making adjustments hard.

 

Water

Please bring a water bottle to class and take a sip whenever you need some.  I prefer to Pre-hydrate--to drink a couple of hours before class, and it's a good idea to stay hydrated all day.  Most centres have a water fountain, so you can top up.

 

Using your Knees to dance

Put simply, please don't !  The more you use your knees to do this dance the less you will be using your tummy, hips and bum.  Try to focus on using the muscles round your centre and your core rather than pumping your knees back and forth.  Using your knees is not only hard work it also wears them out.  Although currently unpopular Floor work is an important part of this dance and is a great example of why we don't use our knees.  If you want to check you are doing it right get a base cushion off your sofa and kneel on it ( a yoga mat is probably too thin), now do your basic moves--hip lifts, drops, figure 8s, shimmies and hip rotations.  If you can do them without your knees when you are kneeling then you can do them you can do them without knees standing up.

 

Levels of Difficulty

The first thing I hear at the end of a new class is that they didn't expect it to be such hard work ! I personally think that has more to do with peoples expectations than the actual class.  Don't come thinking it will be a bit of jiggling around.  - One of the things I love about this dance is that you can make it as hard or as easy as you want, from week to week and move to move.  This means that everyone can work at their own rate every lesson.  I don't have to use a mike or shout at students because I only teach adults, and I trust them to work as much or as little as they want to in each class.  That means that if you missed the gym this week I expect you to add in all the extras and use the class as a work out.  Equally if you have been up all night with a poorly child you can come to class for an hour of relaxation.  Only you know about your life, your fitness level and your needs.  If they fall into the mid ground then you don't need to share them with me--if I ask you to do more than you want to just say no--I'm not going to argue.  If you think you are extremely unfit or have limited range please speak to me before your first class and I will make sure you get adoptions for each move.

 

Making it Harder

To make the moves harder you don't necessarily want to go faster.  Often the moves are harder to do slowly, because then you can focus on every muscle and how it is working.  Try to keep control over the movements, keeping them smooth and even.  Engage your pelvic floor and maintain the posture for the whole time.  Adding in arms or travelling  can make it harder and anything that takes the arms above the heart, or includes an undulation will give you more of a workout.  If you love to work out then try the Drillz and Thrillz class on a Thursday.

 

Making it Easier

If you are finding it too hard then you can relax the pelvic floor and also check you are not too tense over your shoulders.  You don't have to add the arms to any moves, but don't let your arms just hang--put them in the basic frame and leave them there.  Find a mid speed, something faster than very slow, but not fast and try to relax into the move.  Let the music guild you.

 

A Valuable Class for those with Limited Range or Fitness

Bellydance is a fantastic class for anyone with limited range or who need to gently get back into fitness.  Because this is a very personal style of dance you can adapt almost all the moves to fit in with your abilities.  If you think that 45 minutes or an hour of class would be too much for you then please come along for the warm up.  You can also join the class as a "chair dancer", doing what you can while remaining seated (this time would not count towards your 20/30 weeks before moving up a group).  If you feel you have limited range or very low fitness please speak to your doctor before coming to class--hopefully they will be extremely supportive.  Twice weekly sessions of bellydance combined with a daily walk will make a huge difference to your energy levels and self esteem.

 

Students with disabilities

Again students with disabilities should find the classes  suit them with very few adaptations.  If you have any questions and want to talk to me before taking the class please do so via email.  I am keen to make everyone welcome and am an experienced teacher.  Carers are welcome to join the class and the cost of student plus carer can be negotiated at most venues.

 

Finding your Style

There are many styles of Bellydance and Middle Eastern Dance and some will suit you better than others.  As you use your freedance time to explore your dancing you will find certain styles appealing to you more than others.  This is also influenced by your dress style, lifestyle and past dance experience.  I ask that all beginners try out a variety of different styles before deciding what they do and don't like.  I also expect lots of people to change their mind over the years.  Later in this section is a list of dance heroes for you to look at so that you can see dancers of many different styles and judge for yourself what you like and don't like.  It also helps if you can go to a Hafla (party/show) or a stage show.  There is always something to go and see each month and flyers are in class.  Once you have learnt the basics and have a good idea what to do with them then a personal style will start to develop.  As a general rule I say that you can't go wrong in this dance--if you can hear it and show it then its right !  Be confident in your own ability and trust your instincts as you dance--you might be surprised by what a natural dancer you are !

 

Health and Safety

Please make sure that you read and sign the green form I give out at the first lesson--this is my fitness to dance and its important that I get them back from everyone as soon as possible.  Please arrive in time to get ready and in clothes suitable for a dance class.  A description of suitable clothing and photos are on the FAQ page.  You need to have bare feet or soft shoes (such as ballet pumps), I can't teach anyone in socks (you are far too likely to slip over and my insurance doesn't want to pay out for that !)  The sports centre has an area to put your belongings, but at other venues we bring our stuff into class, but it needs to be put somewhere away from the dance floor.

 

Your Commitments

It is important that you confirm your place on a course with at least a week to spare.  This helps  with planning, and also saves time on the first day of term .  I also need to know if you plan to take a few weeks off from a course, perhaps for a holiday, or because of illness.  Please arrive in good time, as the warm up is most important to your general health, and be considerate to other students.  If you are struggling with a step, move to the edge of the room and ask for help from your teacher - but remember that the occasional step in the wrong direction is to be expected!

   *Time

   *You do not need to commit to any more time than the hour or two you take for lessons each week.  Having said that the more you practice the better you will get.

   *Money

   *You should not need to spend any more money on this hobby above the cost of your class or course.  If you should find yourself wanting a coin belt, big earrings, regular workshops, a veil, skirts in 15 difference colours, Orientalist paintings and an annual holiday to Egypt…. Non of that is my fault !

 

History of this Dance

This is such a huge section and I've not written it yet ! - I suggest you go to www.shira.net for a fabulous web site filled with more information that I could ever provide you with and all researched and updated regularly.

 

My copyright

By attending my classes you are agreeing to respect my rights and copyrights regarding my work.  This means that nothing from this web site, nor any handout given in class can be copied without my permission.  It also means that choreographys that I teach remain my property and can only be performed with my permission.  This sounds very mean, but the truth is I will always give permission if I can.  An example of where I wouldn't would be if I was intending to perform it at the same event.  This agreement continues even after you stop coming to class.  I truly hope that, after a reasonable amount of time in class, I will be able to teach you the key moves and how to use them so that you can both dance in a freedance style and write your own choreographys--my choreographys are designed to be a "one size fits all" and so you could do much better !  I teach a mix of the styles I learnt from my teachers (Tina Hobin, Afra Al-Kahira and Emma Pyke), influences from workshop teachers, including other ASMED teachers and what I have learnt from 10 years of teaching this dance 5 days a week.

If you go on to teach this dance at a later date I ask that you make sure you have insurance, PPL, are honest about your experience (its amazing how many teachers and dancers found Bellydance in master teacher’s classes and never seemed to do a beginners class in their life !) and remember to credit me as one of your teachers !  Please read my terms and conditions and make sure you agree to them before attending class.

 

Your First

Class

HOME

 

INDEX