Why Returning to the Basics is Essential to Your Dance Practice

Bellydance is getting more complex. In just a few short decades, the artistic expression of an art with age-old cultural roots and ethos, has changed dramatically, reflecting the rapidly moving undercurrents of our new world. Movements are faster, choreographies are tighter and there seems to be an unspoken pressure on dancers to meet a certain criteria - one that would leave some of the world’s most famous Golden Era bellydancers lacking in the technical arena. Yes, times have changed and although the dance has evolved and branched out into new theatrical realms, bellydancers around the world have been expressing concerns about a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction, resulting in the type of frustration and internal conflict that can gradually erode one’s sense of artistic worth and self esteem. 

We know that bellydance is not an exacting art, and that traditionally, enjoyment, sensuality and self-expression were at its core. So how do you, as a dancer, maintain your artistic integrity and enjoyment whist relating to the outer landscape of dance? You can begin by assessing your growth within your own capabilities and true interests. Increased cyber visibility and instant access to performances by popular dancers, whether self-documented, or filmed at festivals and competitions, has created a new set-point which dancers are measuring themselves against. If you build your dance from a solid infrastructure where the basics are practiced regularly, you will become more internally-focused.

Life has sped up. With our fast-paced environment comes an urgency to learn quickly and achieve perfection by focusing on an ultimate goal. In current bellydance trends, the complex choreography appearing on stages and competitions, is what many dancers aspire to. In their enthusiasm to level up to their bellydance idols, they often rush through the most important stage: embodying the basic essentials. So, when you slow down, your growth may be more gradual but it will also be more sustainable. Returning to the basics ensures you take the time to acknowledge the roots of your art, to maintain strength and adaptability.

Embodiment is integral to owning your dance. The key to dance satisfaction is to return to the self. Embodiment is a Somatic state that lies within your cells, neural pathways and body-mind connectivity. As you boost your sense of self, through personalising your art in a shifting world, you also build resilience. A resilient dancer is also more self reliant, even when working with community. Resilience is a blend of adaptability and steadfastness; the result of strong foundations.

Whether you are a student, teacher or performer, returning to the basics is essential to your practice as a dancer. Like the professional ballerina who returns to the barre to practice 
the basic ballet positions, you can enjoy your basic bellydance moves, transitions and pathways, by creating a simple drill. If your basic practice includes fluid, percussive and kinetic moves, you will strengthen multiple pathways. Then, in the fluid spirit of bellydance, allow some time to improvise. You will find that your basics will naturally integrate themselves within free style movement, as the muscle memory is fresh. 

By spending quality time on your foundational movements, your body-mind connectivity is strengthened and supported in many ways. When dancers engage with complex new movement and choreography, they tend to focus on the new details and often feel they must learn complex movement pathways from scratch. However, the basics that lie within are often overlooked. Without the proper grounding required to initiate the new processes, these more advanced activities can feel challenging or frustrating, leaving the dancer feeling less than competent. By regularly integrating simple grass-roots movements and finding the basic structural pathways and body connectivity before adding detail, this process becomes simpler. Focus on the basics, including how you are feeling your weight, space and timing.

A simple Somatic warm up can boost your dance practice - your own movement ritual. 
The somatic approach creates a heightened awareness of even the simplest movement - by moving slowly, deliberately and consciously, as though it is the first time you have experienced it. The act of slowing down to feel and embody movement is essential for the creation of deeper neural pathways and understanding the flow of dance movement - from weight sensing and internal sequencing, to relating to the spatial field and feeling the dynamics of the movement’s qualities. Performing movements slowly, with your full attention and awareness, is necessary not only in the developmental stages, but at all stages - particularly when initiating a new level of complexity. By integrating basic movements regularly, and finding them within complex sequences, you will enjoy a more natural and embodied mode of dancing.

Whether you wish to explore within specific styles or genres, or 
if you prefer personalised free-form bellydance, returning the basics will support your dancing at any level.



* Somatics for Bellydancers Course
(with 14 day practice) 
 View here

* Balanced Bellydance Complete Program
with mentoring by Shemiran Ibrahim and Keti Sharif www.balancedbellydance.com

Stay tuned for my upcoming DVD series:
Core Essentials: 120 Bellydance Moves by Keti Sharif, out March 2019. www.ketisharif.com


  1. Well said, Keti. I resonate with these writings and feel a new tide of inspiration rising within me. I appreciate everything you do for the dance and for those of us seeking new ways of being within the art of bellydance. Keep on keepin'on!

    1. Thanks Jeri, yes so much of our dance experience is about our perspective... where we choose to come from with it. Mindful movement keeps us grounded.

  2. I am in agreement with you, Keti. Looking at some of the professional dance shows now, it's almost as if the dancers have to be both a belly-dancer, a ballet dance and a gymnast. This is taking nothing away from these fabulous performers, but I always find it lovely to watch the fluid, basic movements this dance is based on; you can really see the soul of the dancer in these. It's wonderful to be able to add your own personality and style to this dance but, at the same time, never forget the roots.
    Looking forward to your next post :-)

  3. Thanks WindsweptDancer, yes you are right about the importance of going back to the roots. And the roots are something we all share in this lovely dance.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Return of Egyptian Dance Students

How to Bellydance with More Ease

Space and Sound: The effects of live and pre-recorded music on dance