bellydance floorwork & Purvottanasana: upward plank pose

This is a re-posting from August 11, 2011.

Bellydancers can benefit from including yoga into their personal fitness routine, and one way this is evident is in floor work. Floor work is an aspect of the dance that seems to be making a bit of a comeback very recently. At least, after seeing virtually zero floor work for about a decade or more, I have suddenly seen a few routines making an appearance in various shows over the last couple of years, and “how to” floor work DVDs are starting to appear on the market. Bellydancers in North America used to do floor work regularly in the 1970s & 80s. It was part of what used to be called the “standard 5- or 7-part restaurant routine. More on that in another posting.

Anyway, back to yoga. My yoga practice ebbs and flows, and sometimes I just don’t feel like working with my DVDs. Instead,  I’ll spend some time on my mat just working through poses that I enjoy, trying out poses that I see in magazines or online journals, or working on poses that focus on areas I need to build strength or flexibility in (personal challenge poses). I have weak wrists, and there are some poses I simply can’t do because my wrists do not support me. I also don’t do the sword work that I’d like to do because the weight of the sword causes pain in my wrists, making practice difficult. In a fitness assessment last June, I scored low in the upper body strength category. That wasn’t a surprise, but it did cause me to refine my fitness plan. As a result, I’ve started to incorporate some movements to stretch & strengthen my wrists, arms & shoulders into my yoga routine. I’ve also added working with light weights, but I’m not as dedicated to that practice yet.

One of the personal challenge poses that I’m working on right now is the upward plank (purvottanasana).  This pose strengthens the wrists, arms & hamstrings and is also a heart-opener (stretching the shoulders & chest). By the way, Purvottanasana translates as “intense Eastern stretch” in Sanskrit (the front of the body being the “eastern side” and the back of the body the “western side”). For some reason, that just tickles my little raqs sharqi (eastern dance) heart! I love word associations!

The upward plank pose is challenging for me to do with good form. Start by sitting with your legs together in front of you, toes pointed. Hands are behind you with your fingers pointed towards your bum.  Press down through your hands and engage your legs to lift your hips into the air. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders. Your arms and legs should be straight. Relax your bum without letting the hips drop, and let your hamstrings & arms do the work. Ground all 10 toes and gently tilt the head back. If you can’t do it without “cheating” & using your glutes, then sit back up and bend your knees before pressing up into reverse table top position. When you’ve built some strength in your hamstrings, you can begin work on the full upward plank again. You’ll see right away why this is a good strength builder for wrists, arms & legs!

As a bellydance floor work movement, you can layer belly rolls & flutters onto the upward plank pose, being mindful to not allow your hips to drop. To recover, lower the hips back to the floor. Cross one ankle over the other and roll towards your audience onto your side, supporting your torso with the downstage arm. From here you can lift into full or partial side plank for more isolations if you choose (another powerful arm strengthener) or keep your side-hip on the floor as you focus on performing mesmerizing hand & arm movements with your free arm. To sit up, bend the knees & swing the legs around to kneeling. (Be mindful to not offer your audience any crotch shots. Always dance side-on or at a diagonal when on the floor.)

If you are balancing something on your head such as a sword, cane or water pot, you want to be very mindful of your balance & center. So, as you roll over, be sure to start the roll from the foot. Think of it like gently “wringing out” your body. The turn starts from the ankle and then proceeds through the lower leg to the inner thigh; then the hip turns, followed by the waist, the breast, the shoulder, turning the head last.

Here is a lovely photo ofAndrameda in purvottanasana, balancing a very heavy sword on her chin. She did some stomach isolations, followed by lovely snaky cross-over steps with her feet from this position. I hope everybody was suitably impressed with the strength required to do this movement and especially with the ease and grace with which she executed it! Brava, Andra, you make it look so effortless!

Baba Mama

I first heard this song at a show in Saint John New Brunswick in late 2000.

I was sitting in the audience, having finished both of my performances, all settled in and enjoying the show when this fabulously energetic music boomed out of the speakers, and in bounced this little dance troupe from Maine.  They were 4 or 5 young women wearing yoga pants with matching fringe skirts and choli tops, and I was completely mesmerized.  So mesmerized, in fact, that I actually still remember it, 13 years later! 🙂 They were beginner dancers, their choreography was simple and teetered on being over their heads, and yet they outshone many of the performances that I saw that night in sheer joy and enthusiasm. What they lacked in crispness and accuracy was more than made up for in the energy and excitement that they shared both amongst each other and with us in the audience. I no longer remember their choreography, with the exception of two movements: a cute little chest drop while pulling the hands down the front of the body, followed by pelvic drops with the same hand movement, which I changed around a bit and incorporated into my own repertoire.

Fast forward to 2010. I bought a CD at a workshop I was attending in Calgary, and just about fell off my chair when I heard that song start to play!  According to the CD, the song was called Baba Mama. I was so excited that started to choreograph it right in that very moment.

Here it is, performed by Saba Middle Eastern Dance Ensemble. Choreography by yours truly. Watch for that little chest and pelvic drop with the pinch pull-down: I incorporated it into the choreography as little tribute to those lovely young dancers from Maine.

 

Feels like dancing!

Tomorrow I’m dancing for the first time in over a year & a half…a small lunch-time performance for the seniors over at Macaulay Lodge. Amazing how just putting myself out there psychically  has opened this perfect little door. All I had to do was think to myself “I feel open to dancing again,” and voilà! …the most perfect little gig that a girl newly-recovered from menopausal depression could ask for.

To celebrate, here I am, performing Raqs Bedaya.
Enjoy!


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A little bellydance for you!

Dance has been on my mind a lot these past several days, so I thought I would dig something out of the archives to share with you today.

This is a piece called Habibity that I choreographed for my dance troupe, Saba Middle Eastern Dance Ensemble a couple of years ago. Here it is in it’s debut performance, March 11th, 2011. Enjoy!

Dancing, Knitting, Quilting, Gardening: a perfect Sunday!

I had such a lovely morning giving Jade her first bellydance lesson today! We did knee shimmies, twist shimmies, played with some veils and learned to walk like a princess/dancer (pointing the toes before each step and walking lightly on the balls of the feet). Here she is:
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That beautiful posture and dancer’s arms come natural to her, as does the great big ear-to-ear grin! We can’t wait for our next lesson next weekend. 🙂

I so enjoyed my hour with these two bright and talented girls. Both got to take home a hipscarf, and Jade is keeping the purple veil (though her mom will have to cut off a good 18″ from the bottom).

And here is Halia showing us a little summer top that I knit for her (notice that she chose to dress appropriately for accompanying her big sister to a dance class!)

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Such a cutie-pie, and looks an awful lot like her beautiful mom.

So that takes care of Dancing and Knitting! Now how about a little quilting? I finally finished the last of the three because-you-matter little boy boy quilts!

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And here they are all together:

 

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Tested and approved by Samuel J. Collins

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I even got out into the garden and cleaned out my flower beds. The sun is out, the leaves are out, green things are starting to peek out of the ground.

I hope your Sunday was as lovely as mine was!

Play!

Melissa at 100 Billion Stars writes wonderful, inspiring blog posts. Her last one was about giving ourselves permission to play.

This is something near and dear to my heart. There are so many ways to be creative and let your playful side out.  You can dance, sing, twirl and move all by yourself in your living room. You can surround yourself with fabric and start cutting and sewing without any rules or idea of where you might end up. You can play tag with your dog or bounce a piece of yarn with your cat. You can write a letter or a poem or a crazy song. Whatever you do, just let your imagination be in charge for once. Just for once! let go of  rules and expectations and create something simply for the sake of playing.

I find myself missing the creativity and playfulness of teaching dance. I feel like my brain and my body are a bit mushy from the lack of it, and I am starting to think about teaching again in some fashion. And so I am taking Melissa’s advice and I am going to play with dance this coming weekend. I have asked my little friend Jade if she would like to learn to dance with veils. (well, actually I asked Jade’s mother and she said yes, lol!) Jade is 7 years old.

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Here is a picture of me at age 7:

 

 

I am going to pick Jade and her 4-year-old sister up on Saturday and we are going to have a play date.  I don’t have any child-sized veils for them…I might need to cut one of mine in half. I will have to dig them out and have a look-see. We are going to have so much fun! Silly, goofy fun and Jade will learn some dance at the same time.

I will leave you with a video of my old dance troupe Saba Middle Eastern Dance Ensemble (who I miss playing with very much) performing a piece that I choreographed for them for Rockin’ the Casbah a couple of years ago. This is women’s Gulf dance and it is all about play. I had so much fun choreographing this piece and I hope you have fun watching it! In fact, if it inspires you to get up and dance along with us, go for it!

How are you going to play today?