Most people don’t have the patience to absorb their minds in the fine points and minutiae that are intrinsically part of their work. They are in a hurry to create effects and make a splash; they think in large brush strokes. ― Robert Greene, Mastery

No matter where you are in your belly dance journey, it’s important to regularly drill the basics. By mastering these six fundamental belly dance movements, you will be able to perform complex, mind-boggling layers and advanced variations with ease.

6 Basic Belly Dance Movements

1- Circles

  • Omi, also known as internal hip circles
  • Medium horizontal circles (as often seen in Egypt)
  • Large horizontal hip circles going outside the shoulder line
  • Large hip circles going outside the shoulder line with a bending/straightening of the knees to create a vertical hip movement
  • Exaggerated Egyptian hip circle, with a squat and/or forward chest drop on the back side of the circle

2- Figure Eights

  • Horizontal figure eights
  • Vertical figure eights, also known as Taksim
  • Maya (opposite of vertical figure eights)
  • Half vertical figure eight (or a vertical circle on one side)
  • Jewel (horizontal figure eight with a lock movement from front to back)

3- Shimmy

  • Egyptian (or leg) shimmy
  • Hip shimmy
  • Choo choo shimmy
  • Vibration shimmy
  • 3/4 shimmy (or three alternating hip accents per step, then pausing on the fourth count)
  • Shoulder shimmy

4- Accents

  • Hip isolations (locks, or a movement with a hold at the end, and pops, or fast movements that pop back)
  • Chest isolations (locks and pops)
  • Pelvic isolations (locks and pops)
  • Belly pops
  • Drop kicks
  • Hagallah shimmy

5- Undulations

  • Belly roll, and reverse belly roll
  • Lower body undulations (Egyptian style), and reverse lower body undulations
  • Chest (or upper body) undulations, and reverse chest undulations
  • Full body undulations from the chest to pelvic, and the reverse direction

6- Twists

  • Hip twist
  • Shoulder twist

Stumped on how to spice up your latest choreography? Or do you tend to repeat the same movements during improvisation? Here are some ideas on how to spice up the six basic movements.

How To Spice Them Up

Change the direction

Use the different planes, especially when posing. For example, you can stand with your whole body facing the audience or sideways. You can also mix it up by facing your hips towards the audience and slightly rotating your upper body in a diagonal.

Speed up or slow down

By just variating the speed you can create an entirely different movement. For instance, a hip shimmy can turn into a choo choo shimmy by increasing the speed.

Vary the repetitions

Think of unusual ways to play with repetitions. For example, we commonly do the 3/4 hip shimmy, but we can also use the 3/4 pattern on a pelvic or chest lock.

Add traveling steps

Using the space on the stage creates an engaging, dynamic performance. Try adding walking patterns, chassés, arabesques, reverse arabesques, or turns to any of the basic movements.

Play with level changes

Add a plié or relevé to the movement to give it an unexpected dynamism.

Overemphasise certain body parts

Add drama by drawing attention to one aspect of the movement. For instance, you can do an Omi shimmy with an emphasis on only one hip.

Layer it!

Everyone loves to watch mind-boggling layers, or the execution of two different movements at the same time. For instance, you can simultaneously do an Omi shimmy with a horizontal hip circle, or even a pelvic roll with a horizontal hip slide. The possibilities are limitless.

Mash up two different movements

Have you ever tried performing a common movement as if it were from another movement category? For instance, instead of performing a smooth, ooey gooey vertical figure eight, you could try the same movement with precise locks. In other words, you would isolate the glute on the down, slide hips out, isolate the glute on the up, and slide the hips in.

What is your favorite belly dance movement? And how do you like to spice it up? 

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