In Search of a better belly
Romantically and spiritually, the belly is the core of a woman’s being, her femininity, her center of power. Historically, a soft, round womanly shape was considered beautiful, and a curving belly symbolized both wealth and position. It seems most men still prefer a woman with those curves, but modern society has influenced the opinion of most women. In the Western world, the least favorite part for most women is the lower abdominal, affectionately (?!) referred to as the belly. It is in that area of the body where you feel muscularly lazy and find it too easy to collect a pouch of fat. Most women give their bellies the evil eye, especially when they are in front of the mirror. I don’t know how many times I have seen this in dance class and can personally say I have felt the same way! I don’t know anyone who wants to look like the jolly Buddha.
Webster’s Dictionary states the noun “belly” is the abdomen. The verbs “bellied” or “bellying” mean to swell out or bulge. Well, that’s not exactly promising, is it?!
Here are some things you can do to define your midsection and slenderize your waistline:
There are technically only two movements that the belly can perform, namely contraction and release. The entire abdominal wall can be used, or different parts in different series, to create various interesting and challenging dance movements. The Stomach Flutter is a great movement that uses the entire abdominal wall. Release the control of the stomach as you let it out, then grab it back in. Do it at an even tempo, in-out in-out in-out without holding your breath. As you gain control, increase the speed to create a fluttering effect.
The second most common movement done with the belly is the Belly Roll. First, try to separate your ab muscles in two parts, the upper portion above your belly button and the lower portion beneath the belly button. Practice contracting and releasing each half separately. The slower you practice, the better. Once you get confident with the separate movements, try this sequence: contract the upper half, then while holding it in contract the lower half (so the entire abdomen is held IN). Then release the upper half without releasing the lower (that’s hard but not impossible!). Finally, release the lower half (so the entire abdomen is relaxed OUT). Repeat many times. Once you have the Belly Roll, you can reverse it or build upon it by incorporating it into a roll that uses the whole torso and spine to make a full Undulation. Advance into a moving Undulation, called a Camelwalk. An excellent version of Camelwalk is what I call the "small Camelwalk", which is executed entirely on the balls of the feet. It challenges your balance, which automatically tones your core. Check out my short instructional video on how to execute a Small Camelwalk: https://youtu.be/ErSvUYmCZTs
Belly dance wouldn’t be belly dance without great belly movements. As you work to improve your dance technique, take special time to develop your abdominal muscles. Not only will your dance technique improve, but you’ll love how your belly looks and will dramatically improve your long-term health. Go ahead, search for that better belly. It’s a win-win situation. You might find that Ozel was right, you are a goddess!
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JASMIN JAHAL, Author
I've been dancing since I was 3 and a professional belly dancer for over 40 years. I've learned so much from personal belly dance experience and want to share with you advice, tips, suggestions and more. Anytime you have any questions and need sage advice, please reach out and let me hear from you!