Turkish belly dance uncovered and belly dance tips
Hello, I am Melissa Belly Dance and welcome to my blog where I uncover and share the mysterious and beautiful world that is everything belly dance.
My blog will be full of tips and advice on improving belly dance techniques, using belly dance to lose weight, tone up and be a happier sexier more confident you. I will address the taboo’s of belly dance and really begin to uncover everything that comes together to form this beautiful art.
I am a Professional belly dancer and belly dance teacher and run my school of belly dance and belly dance fusions throughout the week in Central London (melissabellydance.com)
In my blogs I will report on belly dance and its different elements, influences, origins and ever evolving styles that make up the many parts of belly dance we know and love.
I will feature interviews from students from my belly dance school and will blog about belly dance around the world and belly dance fusions.
In this 1st edition we interview one of my students Joey, who shares her belly dance experiences with you all, we have a spotlight on Turkish Belly Dance, and I share some expert juicy tips and advice on the ‘hip box’ AKA ‘square’, AND put your stamina to the test in a belly dance challenge!
Belly Dance Tips And Advice Hip Box (Square)
The ‘Hip Box’ is an awesome move when its done right.
check out my free hip box video on youtube:
[youtube_sc url=”http://youtu.be/J9rHWcYUEUA” fs=”1″]
No idea what I’m talking about?? google it!
I also teach and break this move down in my Essentials DVD.
Not only is it impressive to look at, but you as the dancer are engaging various muscles which means that not only are you working your brain but you are also toning and strengthening your muscles….why? Because you are contracting and releasing them!!
When I see people doing the ‘hip box’ or ‘square’ I notice a very common ‘thing’. This ‘thing’ is that either they miss the lower ab contraction at the front…. or they release it to soon meaning that rather than it being a juicy internal looking movement the movement gets lost and can end up with people sticking their butt’s out…result? An untidy hip box and a bad lower back!
Sometimes I see people doing the hip box with out them really engaging or contracting the right muscles properly…result? A box that’s somewhere between a bigger exterior hip box and a smaller internal (muscular) hip box, meaning its not quite one or the other and the effect or movement is lost.
So here’s the ‘secret’…..
stand with a good dance posture: soft knees, feet hip width apart, long tail bone (you butt’s not sticking out), chest slightly lifted, shoulders back and down. You should be feeling grounded and tall!
The HIP BOX: Lets start clockwise from the Left glute.
– contract left glute (bum cheek), Keep feet firmly planted on the floor
– Contract lower abs by going into a pelvic tuck
– Keep the pelvic tuck at the front whilst ADDING on the glute contraction on the right. So you should now have 2 contractions. 1 in the lower abs and 1 in the right glute. By doing this you actually have somewhere to go on the next move. This avoids sticking the butt out.
– Release hips back to neutral position, or for more advanced dancers think of doing a really small lower back contraction. Its minute! Don’t over do it – smaller is better and safer.
– Ensure that you haven’t just stuck you butt out on the last move, rather you have ended back in neutral position.
Unsure? If your an online student you have the privilege of online support – submit a video of yourself doing the move for me to analyse and I’ll help you out!!
Spotlight : Turkish Belly Dance
A note from Melissa:
I have discovered that it is very difficult to find legitimate belly dance facts be that in books or on the internet.
It’s very difficult to know whether what you are reading is the ‘truth’ and concrete evidence.
A lot of information can be based on personal opinions and by people that genuinely believe that they ‘know’ because they were ‘told’.
So where as I can’t say the below info is ‘gospel’ I have researched to find what I believe to be ‘reliable’ sources of information.
The majority of the Articles and info below are from Artemis’s website and an Article written by Kristina Melike for a lecture she was giving in March 2007.
I am truly grateful to these ladies and anyone else who shares their work and knowledge with us all to help educate us about the world of ‘belly dance’ which brings us all together.
An Introduction to the History of Turkish Oriental Bellydance
Kristina Melike (2007)
Once described as “the dance that could melt a stone,” belly dance is known as “Oriental Dance” in Turkey, literally meaning “Eastern Dance.” (The “göbek dansı” or “stomach dance” is entirely a different dance form, involving two men with faces painted on their bellies.)
The roots of Turkish Oriental dance lie in the Turkish Rroma (“Gypsy”) culture, the harems, and the turn-of-the-century theatres in Istanbul. During the Ottoman Empire, the “çengis” [chain-gees] (dancing girls) and the “köçeks” [ko-cheks], (dancing boys), were comprised of Rroma, Greeks, Albanians, Circassians, and Jews. These entertainers were never Turks, as public dancing was considered undignified. The most skilled dancers were the Turkish Rroma. Due to the Ottoman occupation of Egypt from 1517 to the early 1900’s, there was a merging of cultures (and dances) between the Turks and the Egyptians. They influenced each other.
Left to Right: Ottoman Cengi group, Köçek (dancing boy)
Another influence on Oriental dance was the entertainment in the harems. The odalisques, or servant girls of the harem, were trained to dance, recite poetry, and play musical instruments, for the purpose of entertaining the Sultan’s guests. They were from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Central Asia. They were never Turkish because they were essentially slaves. The odalisques were at the bottom tier of the harem hierarchy. They were not concubines, although they could potentially (and rarely) rise up to this next tier if they possessed enough beauty, talent, and grace. When the harems were abolished at the turn of the century, some of the dancers who sought new work began performing in European style theatre halls in Istanbul.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Kemal Atatürk pushed to modernize the new Republic of Turkey. He favoured regional folk dances and classical ballet to Oriental Dance. Although it was no longer part of everyday life, it was still performed at parties, travelling carnivals, and public holidays. In the 1960’s Oriental dance made a comeback due to the demands of the tourists. At this point Turkish women also performed the dance.
Famous Turkish Dancers
Saliha TekneciLike the famous stars of Cairo, many Turkish Oriental dancers were also film actresses. Saliha Tekneci [Sa-lee-ha Tek-ne-jee] starred in several Turkish films in the 50’s before coming to America. She made one film here in 1964 (“Diary of a Bachelor”), and danced in the clubs in NYC. She was known for her “haughty and distant attitude” while performing.
Nejla Ateş [Nej-la Ah-tesh], also appeared in several Turkish and American films as an actress and dancer. She modelled on the cover of several record albums as well, most famously (or infamously) on Mohammed El-Bakkar’s album “Port Said.” She also performed on Broadway, in “Fanny” and became known as the “Exquisite Turkish Delight.” She died in 1965 from an overdose of barbiturates.
Özel Turkbaş [O-zel Turk-bahsh], was another film actress who had a big career in Turkey, and who came to America in the 70’s. She sang and danced in the clubs of 8th Avenue. Özel was instrumental in bringing Oriental dance to American women. She wrote a book called “The Belly Dancer in You,” in English. She also brought together top Turkish musicians, like Mustafa Kandıralı [Kan-der-al-ih], to record Bellydance music. Although the album titles are tawdry today (“How to Make Your Husband a Sultan,” “How to Belly Dance for Your Sultan”), the orchestrations are still outstanding. Özel sometimes sang on the records, and a small instructional booklet usually accompanied them. Today she lives in New York City. A few years ago, Kristina had the pleasure of hearing her sing in a special concert when two of her albums were re-released on CD.
Princess Banu [Ban-oo] and Nesrin Topkapi [Nes-reen Top-kap-ee] were famous dancers in the 70’s and 80’s. Princess Banu was well loved. She began her international career in 1976 in London. She has performed all over the world, and is said to be “the best interpreter of the Egyptian school of dancing.” Nesrin Topkapi was the first dancer to do a show on Turkish television. She started teaching bellydance to German tourists in Turkey, and was so successful, she opened a dance school in Germany in the 90’s.
Left: Nasrin Right: Princess Banu
Sema Yıldız [Sem-ah Yihl-dihz] grew up in a Romany neighborhood in Turkey. She used to sneak out of the house to watch the dancers at parties. Her dance career began when she appeared in a dance competition in 1967. She went on to become a top star in Turkey. Her style strongly shows the influences of the Rromany dancing she had learned earlier. She has since retired, but is still teaching workshops around the world. She has coached the new Turkish dance stars of today, among them Asena [Ah-sey-na] and Didem [Dee-dem] (who is Rromany).
Oriental dance in Turkey today is performed for tourists, at fancy hotels, clubs, and on special dinner cruises; and at “Gentleman’s clubs.” However, the top dancers (like Asena and Didem) are considered Pop Stars, and perform on television, like the “Ibo Show,” and “Oryantal Star,” an “American Idol” type of contest. The dancers often use Egyptian and Arabic music and stylings in their dance shows now.
(Didem left, Asena right)
Advocates of the Turkish style of bellydance in America today are Anahid Sofian, who danced in the original 8th Avenue clubs, Eva Cernik, Dalia Carella, and Artemis Mourat. Artemis has been instrumental in researching the historical contexts of Turkish Oriental dance, and in promoting this style of dance authentically to bellydance students in America today. She teaches in the US and throughout the world.
First we must start with the music. A typical Turkish Oriental dance show will be comprised of selections from several different styles of music. The expression “Oyun Havalari” refers to dance music (usually Oriental dance music) and this is an “umbrella” expression for the styles of music that can be found within an Oriental dance show. They are: Arabesque music and Roman Havasi music.
Arabesque music is a fusion form that combines Classical Turkish music with Arabic music. Some of these songs have been used by Oriental dancers for many decades. “Roman Havasi,” literally translates to”Gyspy” Music. This is composed by the world famous Rromany musicians of Turkey. It can include various 2/4, 4/4 and 9/8 time signatures. The Turkish çiftetelli is often used and this version is in a medium to fairly fast tempo. Note that çiftetelli also exists in different styles of Turkish music, not just Oriental.
Turkish Dance Stylisation
Turkish Oriental dance is similar but less refined than its Egyptian sister dance form. It is less elegant but not less articulate. What it lacks in composure and predictability, it makes up for with spontaneity and passion. Both styles are expressive, playful and sometimes introspective. The Turkish dance is assertive, passionate and sometimes even indifferent. It is far more energetic and sometimes has a bouncing or hopping aspect to it. The Turkish dancers employ shoulder and hip shimmies, back bends, shoulder rolls, full body undulations and isolations of the head, ribs and hips (slides, lifts, drops, half circles, full circles and “figure eights”). There are abdominal undulations (rolls), flutters and pops. The dancers use knee lifts, kicks and even high kicks. They do a lot of spins. There are level changes. Turkish dancers still do veil work to a slow or medium tempo song. The costuming is revealing, well beaded and accentuates the enthusiastic hip articulation. Many of the dancers wear high heeled shoes and this too affects the hip articulation. Up until a few years ago, all Turkish dancers played finger cymbals (zills). Floor work is still quite popular in Turkey and it is acrobatic. The drum solos are strong and elaborate. Traditionally, the shows have been improvised and done to live music. There is a feature that is unique to Turkish dance and this is the use of a family of gestures that are from the Rromany roots. Up until very recently, The Roman Havasi music and accompanying Rromany danced sections were an important and integral part of the Oriental show. The most famous of these were and are the Rromany 9/8s.
The Typical Show
In a Turkish Oriental dance show, the musicians include many of the musical sections that exist in an Egyptian Oriental show. There is a fast entrance and a fast finale and there are taqsims (improvisations that have no rhythm) and drum solos embedded within the show. There are also some of the same 2/4 and 4/4 rhythms such as masmudi saghir (beledi), ayub and maqsum.
In all I would say that regardless of the style, belly dance is a powerful art form that has the ability to enrich peoples lives, create opportunities to reconnect with ourselves and allows us to accept and appreciate ourselves. I think that with the increasing media and modern day demand for women to be forever young, skinny and have the ‘perfect’ body belly dance really does offer us the opportunity to love who we are and own it!
In my next newsletter I will be looking at a different topic, so keep your eyes open!
Cernik, Eva. 1998 “Sema Yildiz: Istanbul’s Dancing Star.” Self Published
Jahal, Jasmin. 2002 “Top Turkish Talent.” Self-Published
Mourat, Elizabeth Artemis. 2001 “A comparison of Turkish and Egyptian Style Oriental Dance.” Self Published.
Mourat, Elizabeth Artemis. 2003 “The Dance That Could Melt a Stone.” Habibi Magazine Vol.19, No.4
Mourat, Elizabeth Artemis. 2007 “Turkish Dance, American Cabaret, and Vintage Orientale.” Self Published
Ozgen, Korkut. 2002 “The Family: Harem, and the Ottoman Women.” www.theottomans.org Lucky Eye Lmt.
A Note from Kristina Melike:
I wrote this article for Laura Ligouri’s “The Art of Middle Eastern Dance” Lecture at the C.U.N.Y. Graduate Center (March 2007). It is intended as a brief summary. I gathered much of my information from dance historian Elizabeth “Artemis” Mourat; I am entirely grateful to her knowledge on this subject, and for making it accessible to us. Please read her articles for more in depth information:http://www.serpentine.org/artemis/turkishdance.html
Artemis : Check out her site – it’s rich with information!http://www.serpentine.org/artemis/turkishdance.html
“Interview With A Belly Dance Student”
INTERVIEW WITH A STUDENT!
For the 1st ever time I am interviewing one of my lucky students to share her experiences with you all!
Allow me to introduce you to Joey.
Joey has been my student for a few years now and I’ve witnessed her grow from strength to strength in so many ways.
Here is what she has to say…….
What drew you to belly dancing?
A friend of mine became completely obsessed with it and really, I just wanted to spend more time with her! But I went along with her and became completely hooked… It’s a very obsessive past-time! I found the music entrancing especially, and I was amazed at the things my body could do if I asked it nicely!
Is your perception of belly dance different to what it was when you first started?
Definitely! Mostly in terms of how broad the definition of belly dance is – it’s not just shaking yourself! I especially love all the fusions and the way different dance types are incorporated. I think I had the same associations as many people, about it being a bit saucy; though now I feel like it’s a dance to celebrate womanhood rather than anything to do with men!
You’ve been a student of Melissa’s for quite some time. Why would you say you chose her as your teacher and what do you enjoy about her classes?
I went along to a free taster class to see how the commute from work to the class would be – once I was there, I couldn’t believe the energy and positivity. I would have commuted hours to go again! I felt amazing leaving – that’s the only way I can describe it! I have the same experience every class, which is why I keep coming back.
Have you noticed any changes in yourself since belly dancing with Melissa?
I think I’m more fulfilled as a person. Before dancing with Melissa, I definitely lived for work. Now, I think I’m more 50/50 dance and work! It has given me a focus outside of work, where I can pretend I’m not a sensible professional and just lose myself in something else completely.
Has belly dancing taught you anything? If so what?
Where do I begin? It has taught me lots technically, but I think what is more important is what it has taught me about myself. As a woman it is really easy to have a negative self-image, and to fear ageing. Bellydance is something which anyone can do, no matter what size or shape or age. Importantly, unlike other dance forms, there are many famous belly dancers who are much older and have had children. It makes me feel like even if I have kids and balloon in size I can still do a dance which makes me feel beautiful and accepted. Because it is usually female only, the dance feels very earthy and spiritual – it’s not really something I do to impress people, I do it to fulfil myself.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve come across Learning to belly dance?
I feel like there are always big challenges – in my first 2 months I couldn’t lift or drop my hips, which is fairly crucial! About a year ago I still couldn’t shimmy very well. But I’ve worked on these loads and can do them without even thinking! Right now, my biggest challenge is flexibility, but I’m determined to work on that as well!
Has belly dance helped you in any way?
If so how?
I’m a teacher, and it’s always helpful to learn new things as a teacher! With an excellent teacher like Melissa, I’m inspired to always be positive with my students, and when I’m frustrated over a move my teacher can do easily, it helps me to empathise with my students’ frustrations in their lessons. It gives me masses of perspective! Also, I moved to London 2 years ago knowing very few people, and now I have met girls in class who are amazing friends.
How has belly dance enriched your life?
I’ve danced since I was 3, but despite always wanting to be a professional dancer, due to a birth defect in my left leg, doctors warned me that pursuing this route this would put me in a wheelchair by the time I was 30. Hearing that at age 11 was totally crushing. I had to give up ballet and all other dance entirely for 4 years. I started back but it was never quite the same. When I started dancing again 4 years ago, I felt like my dream was back – I couldn’t be a professional ballet dancer, but with Melissa I can dance for many hours every week with no negative side effects (bellydance is much less straining on bones than ballet!), and moreover I can perform for an audience at our termly shows, which means I get to fulfil my childhood dream at last! When I’m dancing, I feel truly alive, and if I hadn’t discovered bellydance I know I would still be only half a person, regretting that I could never do what I love best.
What are your top 3 favourite things about belly dance?
Learning choreography, polishing choreography, performing choreography.
BELLY DANCE CHALLENGE!
Try my Shimmy Drill Stamina Challenge!!
OK so first you gotta set the tone and get in the mood!
Get your favourite piece of motivating upbeat music – something that makes you wanna dance and do your thing – doesn’t have to be a belly dance track, can be anything that rocks your boat!
Make sure its on repeat or you have a series of kick ass tracks in a row…. you’ll be here a while!
OOO and wear something that doesn’t restrict your shimmy…..
READY? STEADY? GO!!!!
1 Min shimmy to loosen up, add shoulder rolls
1 Min shimmy add snake arms
1 Min shimmy add chest lifts/drops
1 Min shimmy chest box/square (side lift side drop) change direction after 30 secs
1 Min shimmy add chest circle change direction after 30 secs
1 Min shimmy add tummy pops ( contract and release tummy – in out in out ect)
Repeat all over again on tiptoes!!!
Don’t forget your technique and to engage the right muscles for maximum control and cleaner more precise movements!!!!
“Melissa Belly dance DVD’s”
All The Essential moves combo’s and break downs the pro’s dont give you!
Melissa Belly Dance Online Classes