online are certainly *not* an adequate replacement for a
good, knowledgeable teacher, who can correct you when you are not doing
a move properly and could thereby risk hurting yourself, and who will
make sure you warm up correctly and cool down afterwards.
perhaps the most obvious Hallmark of all the Arabic dance forms- moving
one part of the body, without it affecting the rest of the body, which
is kept still (or is performing a different move).
Almost all the
basic hip & torso moves, even at Beginner level, involve isolation
of parts of the body- when you do a simple hip rotation or horizontal
figure 8, your head and shoulders are supposed to stay in the same
place. When you do a shoulder shimmy, you are keeping all the movement
to the upper torso, so the shiver remains in your shoulders, and
doesn't travel out into your arms & hands, or down into your hips.
In my Warm-Up,
before we have even started dancing, we start to practise these
Isolations, with ribcage slides and circles, and hip slides and
The essence of
Isolation lies in being able to use the "synergist" muscles- the
muscles that hold your body in place, the muscles that stop a move from
waggling about. As you do a hip slide, synergists in your thoracic area
keep your shoulders & head in the same place, by holding the
ribcage in position, and synergists in the thighs keep the move
Here are a few aids
to improving your isolation for you to try:
your isolations room. Lift your ribcage, focussing the lift in the back
rather than just the front. This will help with both upper body &
lower body isolations. Any hip isolation and any ribcage
isolation will benefit from this lift.
your supporting leg (or both legs if the move is even-sided) slightly
bent. This will act as a shock absorber, as far as any hip moves are
concerned. It shouldn't be a big deep bend like a skier's stance, but a
softness in the knees, that will cushion the movements.
upper body isolations, try turning your toes in. This is not
ideal dance posture- it's not pretty & it's not readily
sustainable. But for practice purposes, it can be helpful- it locks the
hips in position. The crucial thing is to turn the toes in from
the top of the leg, from the hips- knocking your knees on their own
really isn't going to do you any good! So rotate the whole leg
right from the hip joint. Once you have done plenty of practice,
and your brain has learned the right neural firing sequence to move the
body in the right way, once the muscles have developed the memory of
how to get the Isolation working, then you won't need this artificial
aid any more.
about which bit of the body you are trying to move. With a ribcage
slide, visualise moving the base of the ribcage; with a head slide,
visualise moving the jawbones; for a hip movement you may need to think
about moving the hip-bones, or possibly your sitting bones.
Fifth, when you
are working on a new isolation (or trying to perfect an existing one),
start the move slowly and keep it small. Big fast moves are much harder
to keep under control than small slow ones.
Last but not
least, start your Warm Up before practising any Isolations- you need
muscles that will be able to respond easily, and joints that are
well-prepared. Don't try any of this cold. In my warm up
routine, we don't start these Isolations until the torso has had the
chance to mobilise (using the shoulder rolls, moves that involve the
whole torso) and the blood has started pumping around the body a bit