Basic Hip Movements

Despite being called “belly dance” much of what we do as dancers revolves around our hips.

Hip Circle

Start with your feet parallel in a wide stance (wider than hip width) and your weight centered and a slight bend in your knees. During this move imagine you are inside of a barrel and you want to run your hips around the circumference of the barrel while keeping your torso in place.

  • Shift your weight to the right foot, keeping the bend in the right knee while straitening your left. Extend your hips to the right side, outside of your body line.
  • Center your weight while moving your hips back, both knees are now straight. Your torso is now bending slightly forward.
  • Shift your weight to the left foot and bend into that knee. Extend your hips to the left side while keeping your torso leaning in to center.
  • Center your weight while moving your hips forward bending both knees. Your torso is leaning back.
  • Finish the move by ending with your weight hips and torso leaning right.

The full circle is counted as a full 8 count. You may start or stop this move at any point. Vary the speed of the circle by speeding through the front half and drawing out the back of the circle to add variety to your dance. Arms may remain up at shoulder height, with hands on hips, or moving in and out as you move through the circle.

Figure Eights

Horizontal figure eight are a more complex dance move than hip circles. Picture the number 8 on it’s side drawn on the floor (like the infinity symbol ? ).¬† Start with your feet hip width apart, weight centered and knees slightly bent.

  • Start by twisting your hips so that the right hip comes forward, your weight is slightly more right.
  • Extend the right hip forward on the angle and make an arc from front to back with the right hip.
  • Repeat on your left side by shifting your weight forward on the right angle and making the arc from front to back with the right hip

The figure eight is a 4 counts for each side. Keep your arms up away from your hips.

Hip Snaps & the 3-Quarter Shimmy

Hip snaps are sharp accents used to match the staccato beats in belly dance music. Start with your weight centered, feet slightly wider than hip width apart and a slight bend in the knees.

Simple Hip Snaps

  • Engage your thighs and push your right hip up towards your rib cage, straightening your right leg and bending your left knee.
  • Snap your left hip up to the rib cage, straightening your left leg and bending your right knee.

3-Quarter Shimmy

The 3-quarter shimmy is a set of hip snaps that follows the pattern of RLR, LRL.

  • Step onto your right foot, and snap the right hip up. Your weight is right and your right hip is angled forward.
  • Snap the left hip up, your weight remains right.
  • Snap your right hip up, weight still right.
  • Take a small step with your left leg and snap the left hip up. Your weight is left and your left hip is angled forward.
  • Snap the right hip up, your weight remains left.
  • Snap the left hip up, weight still left.

The count for the 3-quarter shimmy is one count per snap with a one count pause between left and right sets. This totals 8 counts.

Hip Drops

The hip drop is a classic dance move that looks great on stage with a group of many dancers. Start with your body on an angle, weight on your back leg (standing leg) and a small bend in the knee. Position your front leg so that the foot is forward of the back leg and the ball of the foot is on the floor. The front leg has almost no weight on it, but is merely for balance. The line of your front leg should look like you are halfway to seated.

  • Prepare by lifting your front hip up, the front leg will start to straighten. This is the “and” before the beat.
  • On the beat drop your hip down to the “seated” position with a sharp controlled movement.
  • Repeat by lifting on “and” and dropping on the beat for 8 counts.
  • On the 8th drop your front hip while lifting your front foot off the floor. This is a small kick that serves as an accent. The foot should not kick forward or up, but instead twist inward.

Arm position is traditionally back arm raised behind your head, front arm either down at your hips framing your hip work or out at chest height.

Egyptian Shimmy

The Egyptian shimmy is accomplished by moving your hips up and down with your knees. You can think of the Egyptian shimmy as small, quick hip snaps (without the snap).

  • Stand with feet hip width apart weight centered and knees bent.
  • Bend your left knee while straightening our right knee. This tilts your hips so that the right is above the left.
  • Reverse and straighten the left knee and bend the right knee.
  • Repeat this motion.

The Egyptian shimmy can be very fast or a slower wobble. Remember that the shimmy is created with your knees and thighs, not by lifting your heels off the floor.

 Enhance your dance

Once you have mastered these basic moves you can begin layering. For example you can add an Egyptian shimmy onto a hip circle. These techniques take extra practice, but the reward is worth it in the end.