RICE is at least 10 years out of date!

The RICE (or RICED; rest, ice, compression, elevation, diagnosis) method for injury management has been advised against in the research & academic settings since at least 2010. In early 2019 I wrote an article about a more up to date method, “do no H.A.R.M” (no heat, no alcohol, no reinjury, no massage). But there’s been even newer suggestions on how to remember to manage injuries!

What’s wrong with RICE?

RICE ignores that there are different phases of healing, and implies that passive modalities (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) are of utmost importance to healing. While we need rest in the very early phases of any injury, we know from decades of research that getting back to movement as early as possible is key to better recovery. And re-loading an injured area is what ultimately makes it stronger and restores it capacity – not resting it!

There has also been some research suggesting that icing could delay tissue repair because it could decrease inflammation.Inflammation is CRUCIAL in the early stages of tissue healing – this is what brings in all the white blood cells to clean things up! It is especially important to avoid taking anti-inflammatories in the first 48-72 hours after injury.Professional performers may also consider avoiding ice. Even if this blunts inflammation only slightly in comparison to anti-inflammatory drugs, professional dancers often need to return to work quickly. Anything that could speed recovery could therefore be worth considering.

A new alternative: PEACE and LOVE

A paper that came out in 2019 (Dubois & Esculier) suggested PEACE & LOVE as an alternative to optimise recovery.

P is for Protect

E is for Elevate

A is for Avoid Anti-inflammatory Modalities

C is for Compress

E is for Educate

L is for Load

O is for Optimism

V is for Vascularisation

E is for Exercise

Let’s learn what these mean!

P if for Protect

In the first 1-3 days, minimise movement that could further cause injury, BUT rest should be minimised

E is for Elevate

Elevate the limb higher than the heart. There is weak evidence that this helps, but it won’t cause harm

A is for Avoid Anti-inflammatory Modalities

Definitely avoid anti-inflammatory drugs in the first few days. The use of ice is questioned and cautioned because it could also disrupt inflammation – which is crucial to healing!

C is for Compress

There is conflicting evidence, but taping or bandaging does seem to offer some benefits to our ability to function

E is for Educate

Health care providers should let you know that an active approach (actual rehab, not just things that feel good) is what you need to recover, and help you have realistic expectations for recovery

L is for Load

Putting weight on the injured part or doing strength exercises should be introduced early, as soon as symptoms allow. This promotes repair & remodeling of damaged tissue, and builds capacity – so you can do the things you used to!

O is for Optimism

Patients who are optimistic have better outcomes. From pain science we know that distress and negative feelings (or anything that makes us feel in danger) can increase pain. I know it can be hard, but trust that your body is adaptable!

V is for Vascularisation

Aerobic exercise (“cardio”) should be started a few days after injury to increase blood flow to injured areas. Early mobilisation and aerobic exercise improve function and reduces the need for painkillers.

E is for Exercise

Exercise is strongly supported for reducing the prevalence of recurrent injuries, and can help restore mobility, strength and proprioception after injury.

While some research papers can be hard to read and/or interpret if you don’t have a background in science, this paper is really readable. Click here or click the article title below to find it!

Did you learn something new about injury management?

My name is Siobhan Camille. I’m an exercise scientist and a professional dancer. I love helping dancers get better, stronger, and more resilient. If this was helpful for you, please feel free to share this article, or sign up to my newsletter to get posts like this in your inbox!

Want to dance stronger?

Siobhan Camille offers the Dance Strong 6 Week Online Fitness for Belly Dancers 4-5 times a year, and writes personalised strength and conditioning and/or rehabilitative programs for dancers year-round. Find out more about the Dance Strong Challenge here and find out more about personalised programming here.

I recently learned a pretty tricky drum solo by another dancer in 5 hours, over 3 days.

When I was cast in Jillina’s stage production of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I learned 7 choreographies in about 6 weeks. So here are some of my main tips to learn choreography quickly!

1. I watch well

Mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that fires both when we perform a specific action (like an arabesque) and when we observe someone else performing the same action.

That is to say, when we see another dancer perform an arabesque, the mirror neurons in our brains fire as if we were performing the movements ourselves.

This can help us understand and learn movements more effectively – so watch first, try second!

2. I don’t repeat mistakes

This one sounds really silly, but I’ll explain what I mean!

If I’m running through a choreography, and I keep making the same mistake, I don’t just keep going and hope it will get better.

I stop what I’m doing. I watch that section again. I practice it without the music. And then I do the run-through again. If I get it wrong again, I stop the music there immediately to break the pattern in my brain. I go from the top (or the top of that section again) and try to get it right.

3. I sing the timing

Especially with lyrical pieces or raqs sharqi pieces in general, steps are not usually on counts, but they follow the melody or other musical accents.

If I’m struggling with a step, I watch the piece again (there’s a theme here!) and I sing the steps. So if there’s a tricky arabesque combo with suspension, I sing along to the dancer performing it in whatever way makes sense for my brain. For example: “left, right, left, riiiiiiiiight, turn and….”

This helps me hear where it fits in the music.

4. I ask the silly questions!

If it’s an in-person or live-streamed choreography workshop, I’m not afraid to ask questions.

Don’t be afraid of looking silly. You’ll be more equipped to learn things independently if you ask questions about the technique or choreography while the expert is right there in front of you.

And chances are, there are other people in the room or the class who have the same questions as you, but are too shy to ask!

5. I prioritise practice frequency

Here for a good time, not for a long time! When trying to learn choreography quickly, I prioritise practice frequency over practice duration.

This increases the chances of me retaining the choreography in the long-term, compared to one or two super long practice blocks in a week.

6. I review right before bed

Sleep provides a lot of benefits to memory consolidation and learning (so getting enough sleep is also key to learn well).

Something I’ve done for a long time, is reviewing tricky things right before bed – even just once, perhaps even just watching instead of dancing.

So my brain can consolidate while I sleep!

These are just some of the ways that I learn choreography quickly!

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P.S. Here’s the drum solo I learned in 5 hours, employing a lot of these tricks:

Siobhan Camille challenged herself to learn this drum solo in 5 hours over 3 days

Looking to get your isolations sharper, your figure eights and circles smoother, and your quality of movement crisper and cleaner? It’s all about practice! However, the way we practice can have an effect on what we get out of that practice. Mindful drilling trumps mindless drilling, so here are three tips to strengthen your belly dance isolations!

1. Know what you’re moving, and how you’re moving it

Hip locks. Well, we’re moving the hips right? Sure, but what’s the driving force behind that movement? We know we need to alternate straightening and bending the knees, so have you taken the time to notice if one leg is working more than the other?

First, start noticing what your default pattern is. Film yourself and watch it back, or ask your teacher or mentor to help you identify what’s driving your movement.

Then, it’s time to get a little nerdy. What muscles can you choose to activate a little more to emphasise the hip lift? (Side note: Muscles are always working – there’s no such thing as a skeletal movement, so here it’s more about what you’re actively choosing to contract a bit harder for emphasis!)

Are you feeling contractions in your glutes (butt muscles) or obliques (side abdominals)? You may be choosing to contract (or unconsciously using) one muscle group more than another. I cover some of the ways I use my obliques for hip movements in the free tutorial below on Bigger Hip Shimmies, and I also have an an exclusive video on improving Oblique Strength for Stronger Hipwork just for my newsletter subscribers.

It’s really helpful to learn what muscles could be driving the movement, and get an understanding of how privileging one muscle group over another could change the movement quality of that isolation.

I cover some of the ways I use my obliques for hip movements in this free tutorial on Bigger Hip Shimmies

2. Strengthen those muscles!

We’ve gotten nerdy, we’ve started to think about the muscles involved! Now what? Easy – strengthen those muscles. Interested in how you can get your obliques to play a part in increasing the size of your hip lifts and drops? Start strengthening them. Plus, there’s the added bonus of a decreased injury risk when our muscles are stronger.

(Don’t know where to start with strength training for raqs sharqi and fusion dancers? Siobhan offers the Dance Strong Challenge several times a year!).

3. Slooooooooow it down…

…. Then speed it up, but don’t cheat! Slowing down an isolation can help you to feel and see the “sticky” parts. When you take your hip circle, maya, or hip lock at a slower speed, you’ll be more able to see differences in size and symmetry. If you’re more aware of these differences, you’ll be more able to work on them. When we’re learning or perfecting a skill our brain has to be involved in doing the work. So slow it down, notice what you want to change, give your brain time to process, and keep at it. When you’re ready, increase the speed. Find where you’re comfortable, then get to that “sweet spot” that’s just out of reach – when you’re not flailing and getting too frustrated, but where you’ve gotta work and reach to get and keep that technique strong and even! Playing with speed is not only a good way to identify how we can improve our quality of movement, but also great for challenging our current level of technique.

Interested in putting some strength and technique work into practice? Register for the Greenstone Belly Dance semi-regular newsletter. You’ll be rewarded right away, with an exclusive video on improving Oblique Strength for Stronger Hipwork, and a mini lower body strengthening workout designed for belly dancers!

Defining belly dance styles is always tricky! 

Much like music styles, lines blur and definitions change over time. Do you know Def Leppard used to be considered a heavy metal band? Today they’re probably more considered to be in the rock category, with heavy metal bands sounding much heavier. Much like the Ramones were once considered super punk, but now there are much louder, noisier sounding bands in the punk category.

Dance is the same. Definitions we once used might change and evolve.

As a belly dancer, I’ve studied extensively and consistently with Egyptian and Egyptian-trained dancers, and lived in North America where I spent several years consistently studying American Cabaret (AmCab) style belly dance.

I remember asking one of my first belly dance teachers what the difference between these two styles was, and her reply to me was that she was still learning (aren’t we all!). So, I’m going to share with you the main differences and similarities that I’ve noticed or been taught about.

Take note that due to the ever-changing nature of dance, and the fact that every dancer brings their own personal style to the art form, there are no hard and fast facts. These are generalisations, not rules – and rules are often broken!

(Modern) Egyptian Belly Dance

In general, Egyptian style belly dance is (or has been) characterised by:

  • Shifting the weight of the body with each step
  • Being more integrated and less isolated than AmCab (but that doesn’t mean isolation does not exist; there is still great control over the body. While AmCab dancers may often stand still and perform isolations while standing in place like in a drum solo, Egyptian style dancers may do this less often, or be more likely to perform isolations while traveling, moving other body parts, etc.)
  • Less upright posture/less balletic posture compared to AmCab
  • Often more likely to see “inward” rather than “outward” movements, drawing isolations in towards the core (e.g. inward rather than outward horizontal and vertical figure 8s, often with a heel lift for the latter where AmCab would keep heels down). There are exceptions of course; Randa has started using outward vertical figure 8s (mayas) in recent years
  • Undulations tend to have less focus on the chest, and more focus on upper and lower abs
  • Arms often incorporated in a more organic way than the arm isolations used in AmCab style

Egyptian style belly dance is performed to Egyptian Arabic music. It can have an “earthier” feel than American Cabaret.

Up until 1:04 in this clip above you can see Randa’s feet quite clearly. Notice the ball of her foot is almost always in contact with the ground, even during hip work on one leg (like at around 0:15). 

You are generally less likely to see a super pointed toe during one-sided hipwork in Egyptian style belly dance, as dancers of this style often use the ground and the flexing capabilities of their joints (ankle, knee and hips) to help generate their hipwork.

For contrast, notice how Aziza, in this more AmCab style performance, has a very pointed toe, with just the toe making contact with the ground during standing postures and isolations in the clip below.

I have heard some dancers say that Egyptian style dance is less muscular than its Cabaret and Fusion counterparts; I would argue that this is a misunderstanding. 

Egyptian belly dance in particular draws a lot from using the force of the ground, but also, so many moves are generated from the core (and particularly the muscles in the front of the body), where in other styles, they might be generated from other parts of the body. 

For example, the more American Cabaret style undulation starts in the chest and rolls its way down, making use of the whole spine. The more Egyptian style undulation starts in the pelvis and travels mainly through the belly and pelvic area, using the belly muscles strongly and not affecting the chest so much. 

You’ll see examples of tight, internal, core-driven hip work in many of Randa’s performances, like the one below.

Of course, all Egyptian dancers have their own style, so you’ll see differences between each dancer as well. It takes a lot of watching and dancing to understand the nuances in each style (an excuse to procrastinate on YouTube!).

American Cabaret Style Belly Dance (AmCab)

“Belly dance is an art form that has been adapted in western cultures to create “related hybrid forms.” It is generally thought to have been first introduced to North America at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, after which it saw a surge in popularity as recreational dance during the 1960s and 1970s in the wake of the second wave of feminism and the sexual revolution and experienced a plateau in the 1980s.” – Milner et al., 2019

Belly Dance was super popular in the United States in the 60s and 70s, but at this time, the internet was not quite what it is today. Many dancers danced to live bands instead of tapes (although American dancers who were active in clubs and restaurants at that time have told me they did use tapes when there was not a live band!), and learned their technique and stylisations through their own teachers, through feedback from the (Middle Eastern) bands they worked with, or from simply mimicking what they saw other dancers do.

If they were working in clubs with live Arabic bands, they did often learn from dancers or musicians who had firsthand experience of belly dancers in their own culture (such as in Turkey or Egypt). However, because bands and native dancers were often from different countries, American dancers learned how to dance to Turkish rhythms and songs, Egyptian rhythms and songs, etc., etc. American Cabaret belly dance thus became a sort of fusion of many styles of Middle Eastern dance.

Like Egyptian belly dance, American Cabaret (AmCab) style belly dance has evolved and continues to evolve over time, but in general, AmCab is often:

  • More isolated and upright than Egyptian style belly dance (e.g. heels on ground for vertical figure 8s, whereas Egyptian style often allow the heels to lift)
  • More shapes and isolations are used in the chest in AmCab compared to Egyptian; although we are seeing more circles and pops in the chest now in Modern Egyptian styling
  • Hands and arms can be a bit more deliberate than in Egyptian style, sometimes less “organic”
  • The modern “Drum Solo” as a standalone performance is much more AmCab than Egyptian. Drum solos by themselves are rarer in Egyptian dance, but you do see them in the context of mejances and baladi progressions
  • Tends to blend technique from a variety of belly dance styles, and has had quite a heavy influence from Turkish style; lots of technique also similar to modern fusion styles

I hope you learned something new! Keep in mind, dancers have their own individual styles, dance evolves and changes over time, and rules are broken. Nothing is ever black or white, but I hope you’ve got more of an idea of the differences and similarities between Egyptian and AmCab style belly dance.

Siobhan Camille teaches regular classes online! See the full class schedule here, and sign up for classes in the Greenstone Belly Dance shop.

One of the biggest mistakes I see dancers make when it comes to training is ignoring the concept of progressive overload.

What the heck is progressive overload!?

Progressive overload refers to gradually (the key word here!) increasing the amount and/or difficulty of your training over time. In both the rehabilitation and athletic performance spheres, we use progressive overload to safely and effectively improve strength, mobility/flexibility, and conditioning status (cardiovascular fitness).

Learn more about progressive overload, and how to tell if you’re increasing your (dance) training load too quickly!

I see dancers make two big mistakes when it comes to progressive overload:

Not acknowledging (or perhaps understanding) where they currently are NOW.

I see so many dancers injure themselves (or just make themselves so sore that they NEVER want to train again!) because they set a goal that is too lofty for their current fitness levels. Lofty goals are fun, but you need to progress towards that goal over time. Just because someone else can run 5km right now, doesn’t mean you can right away, especially if you’ve never run before!

The next most common problem I see is:

Building up to a certain level…. And then never changing anything!

You don’t need to always aspire to stronger, faster, more flexible (although, I truly believe that stronger is better in lots of ways for our bodies – but that’s a discussion for another time). But our bodies are REALLY good at adapting to stressors. Exercise is a stressor. We need a certain amount of consistency for our body to adapt, but once the body is used to something, we need to change it up to keep ourselves seeing the same benefits of training. This can be as simple as changing the type of exercises you do every 4-6 weeks, or adding weight or resistance to the exercises you’re doing.

Progressive overload is not just important for our strength, conditioning and mobility work. It’s also important to consider when planning our dance practices.

Consider this common scenario:

You’re going to a belly dance festival for the first time in a long time (especially after the last 2.5 years of most things being online!). You’re usually dancing for 45 minutes, three times a week. But you’re so excited to dance again, and all the workshops look SO good (sound familiar?). So you’ve signed up for 8 hours of workshops this weekend!

Jumping from 2.25 hours of dance in a regular week to 8 hours (or 10.25 if you also did those standard regular classes) is a big jump in load for our bodies. This can be one of the reasons you might be more likely to sustain an injury at a dance festival – it’s a huge jump in loading that your body is not used to.

But don’t just take my word for it – let’s use a simple method to assess this jump in dance volume:

The acute-to-chronic training/workload ratio (ACWR)

Sounds complicated already, I know! But I promise it’s not, and for this simple method, you can even find a calculator online. I use a slightly more involved version of this method, but this basic method is a great way to get a snapshot of whether you’re increasing your dance and/or training volume too much.

The acute-to-chronic training/workload ratio (ACWR) compares your mileage (for activities like running, cycling, and swimming) or duration (for activities like dance) from the last week to your average weekly mileage/duration for the last four weeks. Week 4 is last week, Week 3 is the week before it, and so on.

When you do an ACWR calculation, you’ll end up with a number at the end. Here’s what the numbers signify:

<0.8 = danger zone; undertraining which can lead to injury risk (yes, we also don’t want to DROP our training amounts too much from week to week if we want to avoid injury!)

0.8-1.2/1.3 = sweet spot; optimal workload and lowest relative injury risk

1.3-1.5 = increased injury risk

>1.5 = danger zone; significantly increased injury risk, highest relative injury risk

So let’s revisit our dance festival example:

ACWR Example: Dance Festival

Week 1 = 135 mins (3 weeks before the festival: your standard 3 x 45 minute dance sessions)

Week 2 = 135 mins

Week 3 = 135 mins

Week 4 = 615 mins (The week of the festival: Your standard 3 x 45 minute dance sessions, plus your 8 hours of workshops at the festival!)

To calculate your ACWR, add up the minutes from each week:

(615 + 135 + 135 + 135) = 1020 mins 

Then, divide that number by the number of weeks (this is standardly measured in 4 week blocks):

1020 / 4 = 255

Then, take the amount of load (in our example, in minutes) from the most recent week, and divide it by the average of the last four weeks (the number we just calculated above):

ACWR = 615 / 255 = 2.4

In this example, your ACWR would be 2.4 → You’re currently in the “danger zone,” the highest risk category for injury because of how fast, and how unevenly, the load has been ramped up.

This is just one of the reasons why we want to progressively overload all of our training – dance, strength, conditioning, mobility or otherwise. We want to progressively build up overtime to reduce our chances of injury.

Have you got any questions about progressive overload for me? Leave me a comment below!

Want to create the strength, mobility, and metabolic conditioning you need to be the dancer you dream of? Siobhan Camille writes personalised strength and conditioning programs for dancers, and regularly hosts online and in-person dance-specific workshops. Find out more about what Siobhan has to offer here, and sign up for semi-regular newsletter here to get all the knowledge delivered right to your inbox!

In addition to being the founder and director of Greenstone Belly Dance, Siobhan Camille is a Rehabilitative Exercise Specialist and Strength & Conditioning Coach. Siobhan Camille has an extensive background in exercise science with postgraduate level degrees in Exercise Prescription and Rehabilitation Science. She takes a particular interest in the safety, strength, and performance of dancers, and has conducted formal research on injury incidence in belly dancers. She draws on this background to emphasise safe dance technique and teaches her students how to find and activate muscles to create clear movement.⁠