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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Dear Shira


Dear Shira:

Forward and Back Shimmy



The Question

Dear Shira:

What exactly is a "forward and back" shimmy? We keep hearing the term but cannot find an explanation. We all know how to shimmy, but don't quite understand what is meant by that term.

--Curious Troupe



Shira Responds

Dear Curious:

In the usual movement people think of when they hear the word "shimmy", the hips make an up-and-down or side-to-side motion. In a forward-and-back shimmy, the hips make a forward-and-back motion.

I've seen two variations of this - one that I've seen Egyptian dancers do, and one that I've seen Turkish dancers do.

Regardless of whether you're aiming for Egyptian or Turkish, it's important for this movement to be a very tiny, delicate movement.


The Egyptian Version

In Egyptian technique, the emphasis is more on the backward part of the motion rather than on the forward thrust. I teach it to my students as back, back, back, back. Practice until you can achieve the tiny, delicate movement, with emphasis on the back part of the motion.

Don't perform this one in public until you're certain your movement truly looks like a small, relaxed shimmy instead of pelvic thrusts. If in doubt, ask an experienced dancer to watch you do it and give you a critique.

When practicing this, keep the small of your back relaxed to avoid possible injury, and don't drill it for too long at one time. Your glutes (butt cheeks) must also stay relaxed. When I teach this shimmy, the most common mistake my students make is to allow the glutes to become tense. Your feet should be in the customary belly dance position of about shoulder width or slightly less apart, toes pointing straight forward, knees relaxed.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision, Glendale, California.


The Turkish Version

Above, I described what I've seen Egyptian dancers do. I have also seen Turkish dancers do a forward-and-back shimmy. In the Turkish version, the focus stays on the front, as compared to the Egyptians keeping the focus on the back.

The Turkish dancers I've seen also keep the glutes relaxed and the movement small. In order to do this one, I suggest visualizing your tailbone doing a drop, drop, drop, drop. This visualization helps avoid building up tension in the glutes and the abs.

I tell my students that I wouldn't recommend doing the Turkish version for the general public in the U.S. because that might be a bit too sexual for most U.S. audiences. It might be fine in other countries, or for specific U.S. audiences who are more accepting of the sexy side of belly dance.

I show this Turkish version of the shimmy to my students, because I don't want to make them think the Egyptian version is the only correct one. But I do recommend that it's better not to do the Turkish version in front of the typical audiences that my students dance for.





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About this Column

Shira has received many questions from readers over the years related to various aspects of the dance. In this column, she picks some of the more interesting ones to answer publicly. Details contained in the questions are sometimes removed or disguised to protect the anonymity of the person who asked the question.



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