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How Can I Improve my Hip Shimmies?

The hip shimmy is one of the classic moves in belly dancing. Hip shimmies get combined with slides, drops, isolations and other moves. The challenge of the hip shimmy is not in the movement itself – it’s a relatively simple procedure. The difficulty is in learning how to maintain a consistent hip shimmy while dancing.

The hip shimmy is one of the classic moves in belly dancing. Hip shimmies get combined with slides, drops, isolations and other moves. The challenge of the hip shimmy is not in the movement itself – it’s a relatively simple procedure. The difficulty is in learning how to maintain a consistent hip shimmy while dancing.

Basics of the Hip Shimmy

The hip shimmy starts with you standing with feet flat. Relax your lower body, keeping the weight distributed on both feet. Tuck your tailbone under, and keep your thighs strong.

Engage your core, and lift your chest. Contract your right glute while bending your right knee. Release both while contracting your left glute and bending your left knee. Alternating this contraction-bend is the essential move of the hip shimmy.

Shimmy Warm Up

Dancers often use the hip shimmy as a method of warming up before stretching. This is a great idea since it gets the muscles warmed up. However, if you want to focus on improving the hip shimmies themselves, practice stretches that target those muscles.

After your muscles are warmed up, lightly stretch the muscles involved. Exaggerate the movements, swaying your hips side to side. Go deeper into the sway until you feel the muscle stretch.

Next, stretch the inner thigh muscle. Hold onto a dance bar or chair back for support. Lift one leg straight out to the side until your feel the stretch. Hold, then slowly lower your leg to its original position. Repeat this several times with one leg, then switch to the other.

Finally, while you’re at the bar anyway, warm up with front and back leg lifts as well.

Shimmy Drills

Download a metronome. Sorry, but one of the keys to successful shimmying is being able to maintain a constant rate for an extended time.

First, put on the metronome at 200 beats per minute (BPM) first. This is a little slow, but work shimmies at this rate for a minimum of one minute. Increase to 220 BPM, and repeat. Your hips should crest at each beat. Work for a minute, and increase again. Engage in this shimmy drill for at least five minutes a day.

Next, increase your endurance by shimmying for an entire song. Start with a short song – about two minutes or so. Make sure you shimmy at a consistent rate for the entire song. Don’t be tempted to add any layers to the shimmy – the goal really is to maintain a constant shimmy. Work this drill every time you practice, increasing the song length only when you’re able to maintain shimmying for the shorter time.

Now you can start layering. Start with the basic hip slide. Practice those first until they’re smooth. Next, slide to the right, shimmy in the middle, slide to the left. This prepares your muscles for the simultaneous movements. Finally, shimmy while you slide.

Add the hip shimmies to circles next. Follow the same procedure, first practicing a smooth circle before gradually introducing the shimmy. Finally, introduce hip shimmies to figure-8s last.

While you’re practicing the layer drills, maintain your consistent rate of shimmying. If it helps, turn the metronome back on. Don’t be tempted to start out fast – that’ll just encourage sloppy shimmy-slides. If you can’t perform a movement slowly, you can’t really perform it. Speed hides, not enhances.

Eventually smooth, consistent hip shimmies will become second nature to you. That’s when you can get rid of the metronome and only drill shimmies as a warmup for your other practice.

How do you practice your hip shimmies?

Photo credit: Fleur on Rouge

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