Belly dance is more than a great form of exercise, it's also a connection to an ancient tradition. Turkish, Egyptian and gypsy women belly danced for one another to encourage fertility and easy childbirth, but today you can find belly dance classes at your local gym. One celebrity at the forefront of the modern belly dance craze is the singer Shakira, whose smooth shimmies and undulations are the result of dedicated practice. These two basic moves are the foundation of belly dance.
Stand in belly dance posture: feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, pelvis tucked under, shoulders pulled up and back and chin lifted.
Shift your weight to the right by bending your left knee. Your right hip will lift and your left hip will lower.
Shift your weight to the left by bending your right knee. Your right hip will lift and your left hip will lower.
Repeat steps two and three, while focusing on keeping your upper torso lifted. Hold your arms at chest height with your elbows bent, which will open up your lower back. You want all the movement to be in your hips, while your upper body stays straight.
Drive your shimmies entirely with your knees. All there is to a basic hip shimmy is bending one knee and then the other. The work is in keeping time to the music and keeping your upper body still.
Rock back and forth with your right foot in front and your left foot in back. Step with your right on the first beat of the music and back with your left on the third beat. Keep your shoulders back and completely still -- as you rock.
Lift your chest as you step with the right foot. Drive the chest lift with your diaphragm muscles, not your shoulders. The lift will be tiny at first, but focus on proper technique and it will become more pronounced over time.
Drop your chest as you rock back on your left foot. Practice steps one and two, until you feel comfortable combining the chest lift and drop with the forward and backward rocking.
Add a belly roll to your undulation as you step on the left foot. Tuck your upper abs as your chest drops. Release your upper abs and pull in your lower abs.
Practice connecting the movement of the upper and lower abs by rolling the movement through the muscles of the middle belly.
Focus on keeping your movements in your muscles rather than your skeleton as much as possible. Belly dance is built of very small muscle contractions that look big because of the degree of control the dancer has developed.
Ann Jones has been writing since 1998. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies. Her journalistic work can be found in major magazines and newspapers. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.