A few summers ago I couldn't move my left arm without excruciating pain. (I prefer waiting it out, trying home remedies, homeopathic methods, etc. to going to a medical doctor.) My self-diagnosis was tendonitis in my elbow and, along with a trip to the local health store, I ordered the book Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain. Reviews I found online were very positive and the author's realignment approach made sense to me. As soon as I received the book (next-day shipping!) I read the first couple of chapters and then went to the section on elbows, wrists, and hands. Because of the pain, I doubted that I could do some of the exercises, but I was able to do them with no problem. ( My favorite was the Supine Groin Stretch at the end on p.72.) My arm felt so much better after one day of following the routine! I kept it up every day, as recommended.
Since that time I have consulted this book for mild hip, then knee pain (it helped!) and also for my husband's shoulder pain. While the exercises themselves have been very useful, I especially appreciate that the author, Peter Egoscue, reminds us throughout the book that we are out of alignment and eventually in pain because we don't MOVE enough. Keeping up your range of motion and flexibility just makes sense.
Keep moving and feel good!
Music that "moves" you is absolutely essential for bellydance, perhaps even more so than other dance forms. Oriental (belly) dancers seek to become the music. If an observer were wearing earplugs, the music would should still be seen through the movements.
When I perform in restaurants, guests often ask me about the music I use. Some even want to take home my CD, they are so inspired! I regularly update "Kiyaana's Picks" on my site BellydanceDownloads.com. I have included links for either (legally) downloading the songs or purchasing the albums that feature the songs. If you have any specific question about the music I use, don't hesitate to ask.
For downloading bellydance music, my absolute favorite vendor is eMusic.com. You can get 25 free tracks. Seriously! Here's my short list for the dance albums they have and also my long list (over 300 albums!). If you'd rather buy an album, you can't go wrong with ordering from Scheherezade Imports or Bellydance.com.
Enjoy the music!
When I perform at private parties such as birthdays and wedding showers, I like to bring my own sound system. Recently I purchased the Harman Kardon Go + Play High-Performance Portable Loudspeaker System with Dock for iPod (Newest Model) for such occasions and tried it out a couple weeks ago. Success! I already knew from using it at home that the sound quality was excellent, but this is why it worked so well for a small-space performance:
1) It has a remote! I was able to start my music and adjust the volume before I even entered the room. You don't need line-of-sight for this remote. It's small enough that next time I might construct a little pouch in my costume to have it ready in case I need to adjust the volume during my performance. Oh, and the remote is stored in a handy little pocket in the back of the system itself.
2) You can use batteries to power this system. This is such a great feature for those times when there isn't an outlet in the immediate performance area or when the element of surprise is part of the event and fussing over a cord would be a hindrance.
3) If needed, you can plug in a CD player. While this system is built for use with an iPod or other MP3 player, you could use this with an auxiliary CD player if necessary.
4) The sound quality is excellent! The speakers really deliver, even at top volume.
5) At the time of posting this, the price is only $209. This really is reasonable for such a quality piece of equipment. A few months ago it was almost $400. I managed to snatch one up when the price dipped to $150.
Any drawbacks? The only thing I've noticed so far is that sometimes the positioning of the iPod itself is a bit touchy. If using it in a stationary setting, such as an exercise class or at home, it shouldn't be a problem. Since I was transporting it and handing it over to someone to put in place for me, I wedged a little slip of cardboard in to better secure the iPod, just in case.
I'm looking forward to using this for the classes I'm planning to teach (very soon!) I have heard great comments from others who use this system for their belly dance classes.
I've found a way to combine my love for teaching, dance, and fitness into one area - SharQui™! I have both SharQui™ and AFAA (group fitness) certifications and love providing bellydance workouts to the Fredericksburg area. SharQui™ uses bellydance movements to deliver a low-impact fitness routine. It is a great introduction to bellydance, but can also help the experienced dancer become more fit and improve stamina. And I think it's fun! Come back to my site for updates on where I'll be teaching SharQui™ (or sign up for my newsletter).
Editing to add: Read about how SharQui™ has helped a woman on her quest to regain mobility.
If you go to a bellydance workshop, you will find women and men in various workout clothing such as yoga pants, tank tops, t-shirts, etc. What makes it obvious that they are learning bellydance is that almost all of them will be wearing some sort of hipscarf. Yes, it can make dancing more fun, but the main reason for tying something around your hips is to make your hip movements more obvious and visible. You are helping your teacher or audience see what you've been working so hard to learn. If you are practicing in front of a mirror, you receive the visual benefits, too.
Fringe? Coins? Fun, but not necessary. Some teachers actually discourage wearing coin hipscarves due to the noise level and because they often "shed" coins when you get your hips moving. (So be prepared with an alternative when taking a class or workshop from a teacher that is new to you.)
Where do you find hipscarves? There are many lovely scarves in retail stores that will do the job - they often have a little fringe, too. You can also make your own (details to follow on a future blog post). There are several online vendors who carry scarves with coins, are crocheted with beads, or glimmer with paillettes. One of my favorite places for such scarves is Scheherezade Imports. Click on "Hip Sashes" on the left.
Scheherezade Imports also has a great "Finger Cymbals, Veil & Hip Sash Getting Started Set."
If you are looking for a simple dance outfit that is perfect for beginners, check out the Student and Troupe offer from L Rose Designs.