Basic bellydance posture aligns the feet, hip width apart, with the knees soft or slightly bent. Keeping the knees soft allows us to more easily re-balance ourselves as we move in space. Stiff or rigid knees can increase the likelihood of stumbling or even toppling over. Keeping the knees fluid allows fluidity of the lower body, promoting a lower centre of gravity. As dancers begin taking steps into various directions of space, their bodies are more balanced and connected to the ground. Majickal Bellydancers practise dance drills involving stepping first into four directions of space and then expanding into eight directions. Being conscious of the direction and shape of each step we take increases our security in physical space.
Dance drills that combine movements such as circling the hips and walking, help to increase co-ordination as dancers learn to adjust their hip position to counterbalance their steps. Combining lower body movements with chest and arm movements are a great way to promote co-ordination as well as keep the torso upright and the lungs free. Advanced co-ordination practises involve dancing combined with the use of props such as canes, veils and swords. The small finger cymbals known as zills provide an extra co-ordination challenge, as well as strengthening and toning the hands and forearms.
The practise of keeping the knees slightly bent while dancing places the weight on the large thigh muscles. The muscles supporting the legs and knees grow in strength and balance. Balancing our weight slightly forward into the muscles at the front of the thighs helps to keep our weight oriented away from our lower back. Staying conscious of how the feet press into the floor helps us to maintain correct posture. The slight emphasis of weight on the front of the foot helps to keep the pelvis properly aligned to prevent lower back strain. When balance in set into our legs we can feel strong and steady.
A good loose shimmy can help to shake out back stiffness if performed with correct posture. Lower back stiffness also responds well to reverse undulations or pelvic rolls that begin with a deep inward tuck of the pelvis and lower abdomen, followed by a rolling forward and down toward the feet. The movement stretches the lower back and mobilises the spine. These movements, combined with gentle hip circling can also assist with period pain. You may find that circling the hips in different directions provides different results, i.e. clockwise and anti-clockwise.
Mobilising the upper body helps to increase lung capacity, energising our dance and our mood. Today's desk and device culture requires a little extra effort to stay free and strong in our neck, back and shoulders. Personally, I suffer shoulder pain and stiffness. Ensuring my dance practise involves plenty of arm circles, veil and cane work helps to control my symptoms. Provided no injury is present I believe many aches and pains are our bodies way of saying 'move me please.'
Handiwork:I have suffered from hand and wrist pain since my cashier days in the early 1990's. Although it is beneficial to wrap my wrist at night to keep it stable during acute episodes, by day the best medicine is to maintain a regular practise of movement. I have found the bellydance cane (a stick around navel height, sometimes with a curved handle like a walking cane) a powerful tool because the circular movements involved in twirling the cane do great things for my joints. There are many habitual activities we all perform that engage the joints of our bodies in ways that can be repetitive, one sided and unbalanced. These changes in symmetry can affect the balanced development of our bodies. We may not be exercising the full potential of each joint. I have found that by utilising circular movements in my wrists, elbows and shoulders, I can manage and reduce my symptoms of pain and stiffness.
Heads Up:I have observed in myself and others, a tendency to 'pull our heads in.' This means to slightly pull the skull toward the spine, resulting in the head sliding slightly forward. Many modern day activities seem to promote this habit, such as bucket style chairs that push the head forward, also mobile devices, laptops (such as mine) that are lower than eye level, even books. This habit appears to shorten the neck and creates more pressure on the cartilage between neck vertebrae. It can result in rounded shoulders and reduced lung capacity, as well as neck and shoulder tension. When we practise our Majickal Bellydance drills we learn to focus on the top of the head, stretching it toward the sky, feeling the neck and spine lengthen. After we centre our lower body properly into the ground, we are free to grow toward the sky. Our dance expanding further into vertical, spiritual dimensions of space.
When our feet are embraced by the ground and our knees and thighs are mobilised for movement we can open our chests and our arms to embrace the space in which we dance and are energised. Our energy can rise up our spacious spine toward the top of our head, our spirits reaching toward the sky. From there the energy cycles back toward the earth in great dance breaths of ripples, circles and waves. We are body. We are fluid. We are energy. We are free.
Leanne Margaret © 2017
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