Sunday, October 28, 2012

Shimmies Defined

Questions about what are shimmies, how they are generated and what are they called frequently comes up in various belly dance fora. So, here is a quick summary of the first question (I’ll leave the others for another blog).
Although the shimmy is a defining movement in belly dance, not everyone agrees what it is. For me, a shimmy is a repeated, smooth, relaxed, driven movement in time with the music – usually double time.
There are some related moves – which are fast shaking movements – but are not shimmies. For instance:
  • A vibration - which is tense – not relaxed
  • A freeze - which generated by muscle fatigue/tension rather than driven
  • A reverb(eration) – a driven movement followed by a loose, gravity generated shake (in my classes the Denise Walk is a classic example)
  • A mess – just jiggling around – not timed often tight and lumpy with no connection to the music at all
Although terminology does vary between teachers but I find this breakdown useful – and many experience belly dance teachers would agree with most of this.

One bone of contention is the three-quarter shimmy. In this, the shake only happens three quarters of the time – and there is a short rest. So instead of a chukka chukka – it becomes chukka chuck. For me, if the movement part is smooth, relaxed and driven I would class it as a special type of shimmy. However, there are teachers who have banished it into Not-Shimmy-Land.

So what can be shimmied? Actually anything – although most common in belly dance are the hips/pelvis, shoulders or torso. The whole body can get involved with the movement travelling from the hips the te belly and up to the bust. But I have also seen hands (especially in Khaleegi), eyebrows (Persian) and nostrils! (Greek).

But whatever you move it should match the music in speed and texture. Don’t shimmy just because you can; shimmy because the music asks it of you.

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