Just Dance!

Our research project is on Belly Dance in the Michiana area. On November 4, Mariana and I were able to join a Belly Dance class and experience the class from the perspective of the students in the class. The class we attended is held in a cabin that is located in Mishawaka down by the river. The cabin they practice in is temporary rehearsal space until they are able to return to the Battell Center for classes. The surrounding area is generally calm and does not have a lot of sound nearby, everything was peaceful. After we had time to survey the area, we walked up to the cabin and went in to attend Belly Dance class for the evening.

The teacher of the Belly Dance classes is Ruby Jazayre. She is an amazing instructor that has been a part of the belly dance field for quite a long time and has many experiences from around the world. At one point while we were in the field, she had confirmed that she is known internationally for her belly dancing skills. Not only does she teach weekly classes to those in the public that are interested, but also teaches at Indiana University South Bend during the week.

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Once inside, we noted that the cabin seemed like a small house someone could live in. There was a smaller room in the back right hand corner of the cabin that had a couple of bathroom stalls for use. On the left side in the back of the room there was a smaller room leading into what could have been once used as a kitchen space. The area we danced in was a fairly large room with wooden floors. There was easily enough room to move around for the different dances. There was also plenty of room to do exercises across the floor in both directions.

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After everyone had arrived and had their own time to stretch out their limbs, the class was called together as a whole to work on some warm-up exercises.  A lot of the exercises practiced focus on the abdomen. This makes a lot of sense since the abdomen is behind the scenes of every main movement done in belly dance; a body roll uses the ab muscles, moving the hips left and right focus a lot of controlling the abdomen, etc. As you can see in the picture above, these participants are focusing a lot on strengthening their core so that they can easily control the direction their hips will go in.

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Multiple times throughout the night, we were all asked to take a deep breath in and a breath out; the arms are an important aspect of this process. While you inhale, the arms are supposed to come above the head in time with the breath you are taking in. After that, you exhale the air and are then supposed to lower the arms down to your side in time with the breath that’s being released. After this was completed, we practiced reaching our arms above our head again and “climb a rope” to practice a fluid movement in your arm motion. I was able to relax and focus on my breathing, I did not think about anything happening outside the walls of the dance class.

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The point of these exercises is to focus on being able to balance on one foot. We practiced this exercise on each leg and did about eight leg lifts to the front, then to the side, and finally to the back. We practiced the leg exercises because it plays a huge component in the dance routines that belly dancers usually perform.

This clip introduced how creative Ruby can be when teaching the class a new dance move. We were told to move our backside against an imaginary barrel and to wipe it clean in a circular motion. If someone did not understand how to do a dance move, she would not mind taking the time to break it down as much as she could. One of the more important steps in dance is making sure everyone is on the same page.

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Ruby wanted to make sure that everyone had a basic understanding of the dance move before practicing it while in motion. As you can see here, Mariana was practicing her toe touch that goes with the Egyptian walk, this dance requires you to also move your hip up while you are touching your toe to the ground.

After everyone was able to work on arm and leg exercises, the next step was across the floor practice. The point of this is to be able to work on movement while incorporating important belly dance moves like the hip tuck or belly roll. Ruby led the dancers across the floor to show them how to properly execute the move she was in the process of teaching. She expressed multiple times how important it was to take this learning process as slow as you would like. She was more worried about doing the movement correctly, rather than doing the movement in time to the music.

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