That is quite an interesting question because it insinuates that belly dancing would be easy. But why actually? Bellydance is many times perceived as a kind of recreational dance where people follow the leader and where you will shift through the levels in a short amount of time simply because the school has limited opportunity. The truth is that not many Bellydance schools are actually able to provide a full curriculum at University level where Bellydance dance is coming close to the Classic Ballet education programs.
To be a professional performer in other disciplines requires years of dedication, practice and development. Then why do we think belly dance is different?
In the course of this article it will become clear why belly dancing is difficult and why you need a trained body and you can't get away with shaking and jumping around happily.
I regularly have students who take a trial class at my dance school and then they are pleasantly surprised at what is involved. Students start with building strength, stamina, flexibility, basic posture and dance elements.
It starts with Home Position
Let's dissect a basic step and find out which muscles are involved to perform it. This will give you a better understanding of how the muscles within the body work together to perform and hold a movement … or rather to sustain it.
But before you can perform the most simple dance step, you will need a good understanding and performance ability of Home Position . The basic posture in belly dance from which all belly dance movements are performed is called Home Position. Feet are flat and parallel, toes pointed forward (Jazz first), knees bent (plié), pelvis in the middle and neutral, your core is active. The arms are overhead with the elbows and wrists slightly bent (fifth arm position).
Different muscles are used to perform this position. I will limit myself to the primary movers also called the agonists. The primary mover is the muscle or muscle group that ensures that you can make the movement.
Home Position - Exercise 1
Stand in Home Position with your arms in fifth position.
Primary movers: calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, core, erector spinae (back stretchers), deltoideus, trapezius, serratus anterior, rhomboideus
Did you know?
Now that we know what Home Position is and have seen what it involves, we can move on to a basic step. An example of a basic dance step is walking in relevé.
How do you perform a relevé? From a standing position you come to demi-point. When you, as a dancer, stand on the ball of the foot with the instep fully extended, this is called demi-point. You can do it with your feet parallel or turned out.
The word relevé literally means “lifted up again” .
Why you can't keep up with the Relevé
The deployment will not be a problem because you are full of energy the moment you go into relevé but holding on is often the problem I see happening on the dance floor. The dancers are not halfway there when the beautiful relevé that was deployed high on demi-point has sagged to halfway to the floor with the heels just floating above the floor and the instep making only a slight slope. When I see this happening I hear Miss Salimpour in my head "Are you still in relevé or are you in flattevé?" Keeping it instant is therefore the problem that is not only caused by lack of muscle strength but also balance.
Relevé with arms in fifth position - Exercise 2
From the Home Position you now lift your heels off the ground and you come to relevé. Please note that everything we did in exercise 1 still applies, only a little bit is added because you are on relevé.
Primary movers: ankle stability, calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, core, erector spinae (back stretchers), deltoideus, trapezius, serratus anterior, rhomboideus
Did you know?
Wake Up call!
A simple everyday training that will not cost you extra time is brushing your teeth on 1 leg.
Do this for four weeks and you will be really amazed at the progress!
Watch it and participate, free exercise
And while I was writing this blog I thought how nice it would be if there would be a video, one that visualizes it.
Home Position Belly Dance
And that's why cross training is important
Because a dance class is mainly about dance, there is little time to develop balance, stability, strength and flexibility while you need it so badly. In myprevious blog I explained why cross training is important. In the video that goes with this post I give away free exercises that you can do at home to improve your stability. And if you want to use cross training in the right way for your belly dance, my Train Like a Dancer program will soon go online. Train Like a Dancer is specific to Belly Dance and Fusion for the entire body on strength, condition, stability and flexibility. But actually everyone can benefit from it, even if you don't dance.
 (Level 1 Study Guide, Salimpour School)
 (bron: Klassieke Ballettechniek)
The following source was used for this blog post:
Fysiotherapie B.D. van Gelderen
Dance should look effortless on stage, but it is by no means effortless
As much as we would like to be carried away by the music, a certain amount of technique is needed. And technique is inextricably linked to muscle strength, flexibility and condition.
In my new program “Train Like a Dancer” you will be guided how to achieve this.
Maybe you have not thought about this subject at all, but if you are taking class with me, you have heard me say many times in class, train these muscles at the gym, do your abdominal exercises, work on your glutes outside of class.
The fact is that we only have 75 minutes in class and you want to spend those 75 minutes as much as possible on dance, because after all it is a dance class and not a sports class.
So if I am strong I will dance better?
A big yes! Because every physical activity is based on muscle load and belly dance is no exception. In my thirteen years of teaching, I see that students have difficulty performing basic dance steps and exercises, and that is because they have some degree of underdeveloped sport specific muscles.
Cross training means stronger muscles
Stronger muscles mean more body control
More body control means dancing effortlessl
What is cross training?
Cross training means that you use different ways of training than the exercises you would do that are normally associated with your movement form.
So with belly dancing you can think of pilates, yoga, running, hiit and fitness.
In my next blog article “Why is Belly Dance so Difficult?”, I am going to analyze a basic step and you will see how it works in terms of muscle load. We are going to see how different muscle groups work together to achieve a movement. Of course, not all muscles are developed in the same way in your body. Cross training helps you to ensure that you can train your body in such a way that different muscle groups are sufficiently developed and you can perform the belly dance movements effortlessly, which of course also makes you less likely to injure yourself. Because different training forms have a different load on your muscles, you prevent unilateral training. In belly dance we use the same muscles over and over so that it can get stuck and stick. As a result, you get imbalance in your muscles and because the muscle is no longer flexible, you also have a greater chance of injuries.
Benefits of cross training
Because cross training encourages your body to move in a different way than you do in belly dance, it will help you increase your strength, condition, flexibility and range of motion.
Ultimately, all of this will help you to get out of your comfort zone and shine on stage.
Of course cross training is not a requirement, but I am in favour of it. As a hobby dancer you can also do fine without cross training, but your learning process will take a little longer.
If you got excited and want to start with cross training safely and use it correctly for your belly dance, my Train Like a Dancer program will soon be online. Train Like a Dancer is specifically for Belly Dance and Fusion to train the entire body on strength, condition and flexibility. But actually everyone can benefit from it, even if you don't dance.
My next article will be about “Why is Belly Dance Difficult?”. This post will be released at the end of the month. There will be an accompanying video with it for free.
A student of mine read in a dance article that stretching would not help because you just need strength to do the dance exercises instead of static stretching. She asked me about my expertisement about the subject.
“Stretching is important to us as dancers, because lack of flexibility is a performance limiting factor, but it's about how and when to stretch”.
Stretching is a natural movement! The first thing we do in the morning when we wake up is an organic stretch, which gives a refreshing and relaxing feeling. In general, a healthy degree of flexibility is important to keep the body stress-free and injury free because it plays an important role in everyday movements. With stretching, you can relax your body and mind, strengthen your muscles, make your muscles and tendons more flexible and increase your range of motion.
In my Bellydance classes I regularly deal with students who have suffered from joint problems such as a sensitive lower back for years, this group is generally somewhat older. It would be helpful for them to do flexibility exercises but only if it is performed slowly.
There are different types of stretching, but the two most common and effective ways of stretching are static and dynamic stretching.
Static stretching holds the positions for a longer time
With static stretching, your muscles are lengthened by bending, stretching and performing turning positions. The movements are performed slowly and you hold the positions for a longer time. This way the muscle is stretched to the maximum length. It is a safe and gentle way of stretching that can be performed by almost anyone.
Dynamic stretching keeps the body moving
Dynamic stretching works on the elasticity of muscles and tendons.
Here the joints are bent and stretched alternately so that you stretch the muscle and increase the range of movement. You do this by making swinging movements in a controlled speed without making it look choppy. Because the body keeps moving, you will exceed your limit faster is you don’t pay attention, making the body more injury sensitive than with static stretching.
When is the best time to stretch?
When I take a closer look at my own body, stretching in the morning to get my body switch on is, for me, very pleasant. These stretching sessions go a little further than the instinctive stretch, one would do when waking up. But this is purely personal and it is not of much use to you if you are less flexible, so let's look at it scientifically.
Research shows that static stretching leads to a temporary loss of muscle strength and dynamic stretching does not. That is why it is advisable to stretch dynamically before your training in your warm-up and not to stretch statically. Of course you can do static stretching after your training.
But if you think about this, you will come to the conclusion that we actually do static and dynamic stretching in class! Why do we do that? The duration of static stretching in class is too short for our way of moving that it would cost you muscle strength during your dance training. In addition, the temporary loss of strength lasts up to ten minutes. And don't you hear me say every time we do our glute contractions in straddle split, that it is not a stretch but an isometric exercise to strengthen the glutes?
Flexibility for dancers
I mentioned earlier that flexibility for dancers is an important factor. It’s hard for me to imagine a fabulous Taqsim piece without floor work. But as simple as the floor work can be, it is impressive and we watch breathlessly when we see a belly dancer doing this. It takes a certain amount of flexibility (and strength) that you need to work on, on a regular basis.
Regular stretching is therefore not only my advice but has also been shown to be necessary to improve flexibility for a long time.
According to Malachy McHugh, you should stretch each muscle group for 4-6 minutes. That takes a bit long in practice, but you can of course stretch several muscle groups at the same time. Do this after your workout because your muscles are warm and you have a greater range of motion. If you want to become more flexible, my advice is to stretch 10 minutes at least three times a week. If your schedule only allows it twice a week, that is fine and you will still notice a difference. If that doesn’t work it is always better to stretch once a week than not at all.
But what about strength in dance-oriented exercises?
Strength is needed to be able to do the belly dance exercises. Let's go back to the example of Taqsim with floor work. If you want to go from a vertical position to the ground to end up horizontally and wish to perform that in an elegant way, you need strength.
Without strength you would fall and that would hurt, it’s also not very elegant to look at and I think the audience would be divided into exuberant laughter and statements of uhhhs.
But suppose you are not yet into advanced floor work, but just want to frolic across the stage with your belly dance moves. You also need a strong body for that. And that dancers, happens with strength training outside of your dance classes. This is my new project “Train Like a Dancer”. I am working hard and the release is planned for September this year! Stay connected through the socials to get informed about the launch.
 (bron: Inspannings- en sportfysiologie)
The following resources were used for this blogpost:
(bron: Inspannings- en sportfysiologie)
(bron: Delavier's Womens Strength Training Anatomy Workouts)
(bron: Delavier's Stretching Anatomy)
(bron: Fitness trainer A, Fit!vak)
(bron: Alles over sport)
Hello! My name is Nargis!