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.
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!