Welcome to Fundamentals 1

From the Director

A long-term goal of mine has been to raise the level of this dance form, one student at a time.  As a professional dancer, I’ve been involved in so many different aspects of the dance industry:  training, teaching, performing, directing, choreographing, staging, composing, developing, modeling, acting, etc. I created my format by gathering together what I have learned and what I have personally developed.  Whether you have never danced before or are a dance teacher, my format is accessible to all levels.  Fundamentals is the first step in the process. 

This Study Guide provides an overview of Fundamentals 1 in my technique. Developing into a dancer is a process that parallels that of any other artist. The first step in any art form is learning your instrument. In dance, your body is your instrument. The basis of my technique is muscle work and an understanding of the body and how it moves from within. My instructional methods  delineate which muscles are engaged in each movement as well as provide specific exercises designed to build the muscular strength and endurance necessary to execute the movements well and safely. I encourage students to understand cognitively what it is you want your body to perform. The ability to break down physical movements intelligently, before executing them, creates the mind-body link that is an essential base. Once the concepts are understood mentally, the body has a foundation to follow. In Fundamentals, students build a strong foundation by learning specifics of body posture, isolation of muscle groups, movement identification, coordination, grace and presence, finger cymbal introduction, basic music awareness, and dance history. 

I encourage you to maintain a positive attitude and an open mind. Fundamentals 1 can be the beginning of a great journey for you, not only as a dancer or artist, but in general as a person . . . You might even be surprised how much you can discover about yourself in the process. 

Suhaila Salimpour, September 2008 

About Suhaila

Suhaila Salimpour is a highly acclaimed performer, teacher, and choreographer of belly dance. Schooled from an early age in jazz, tap and ballet, Suhaila began integrating her extensive classical training with the Middle Eastern dance training passed on by her mother, Jamila Salimpour. The result was a true artistic breakthrough: a revolutionary foundational technique that has brought the art of Belly Dance to a new level. 

This Study Guide is an overview of the first level in Suhaila Salimpour’s belly dance format. The purpose of the Guide is to assist students new to the format in understanding information specific to the first level. 

As with any type of physical activity, for your own safety, please consult a physician before beginning. 

Content

Warmup

The warmup consists of stretching, breathing, and strengthening exercises. It is designed to lead the student through a gradual transition from a resting state into a manageable level of exertion and to initiate body awareness by awakening and connecting both the mind and body. The physiological changes that occur during the warmup not only lessen the inclination to injury but aid in the enhancement of training responsiveness. 

Understanding the Body

Suhaila’s format is designed around an understanding of the structure of the human body. This knowledge has been used to develop a comprehensive format that cultivates the preservation of the body by building strength and flexibility, while safely moving through postures and positions that are designed to protect the natural alignment of the spine. Care in dissecting the origin and impact of isolated movements, as well as basic posturing, is done to perpetuate a dancer’s longevity. When beginning this warmup keep in mind your bodyline and posture, and remember the importance of using your breath to maximize the value of each stretch. 

Awareness

Special attention is placed on protecting the knees and the lower back. Keeping the knees in line with the ankles, keeping the knees soft, and strengthening the quadriceps are important elements in protecting the knees from dangerous and unnecessary overwear and misuse. Constant awareness of posture is important. The ribcage should sit directly on top of the pelvis ensuring that the upper back never extends beyond the lower back. This will prevent painful stress in the low back. 

Breathing 

Begin in straddle stand. Inhale while lifting arms from low first position through second position, to fifth position. Exhale during plie, bending the knees, while the arms reverse, coming down through second position to low first position. Repeat. 

Side Stretch 

In straddle stand maintaining a demi plie: Circle left arm clockwise (towards right) from a low first position, through second position and up to fifth position. While circling arm, keep the ribcage facing front and bend from the waist, taking your upper body to the right side as far as possible. Continue circling left arm to a high first position down into low first position as your upper body returns to the original position. Reverse stretch to opposite side. 

Flat Back Stretch 

Begin in straddle stand. Angle upper body over right leg with the back flat and parallel to floor. Release down, into straddle pike over right leg, head toward knee. Hold stretch. Then, lift back through flat back position, through side stretch, then return to straddle stand. Reverse the stretch to opposite side. 

Upper Body Stretch 

Begin in straddle stand in demi plie. Inhale and bring arms into fifth position, reaching toward the ceiling. Exhale while completing one full upper body circle clockwise. Bending at hips, bring upper body over right leg, through center of both legs, transfer upper body to left leg and then come back into a standing position. As the circle finishes, allow upper body to release back from the waist up as you contract your Latissimus Dorsi (Lats) to arch in the upper back and open up the chest. Reverse the stretch to the opposite side. 

Straddle Pike Stretch 

Begin in straddle pike with hands flat on floor. Keeping upper body down, walk upper body over to right leg until the head is near right knee. Hold stretch. Reverse to left side. 

Straddle Squat Plié 

Begin in straddle pike with hands on floor in front of body, shoulder width apart. Bend knees into a deep plié (squat position). Hold plié. Then, press hips up toward ceiling, until legs are nearly straight. Keep hands on floor.

Straddle Squat Presses 

Begin in straddle squat with back flat. Press elbows into inner thighs (pressing knees back), spine parallel to floor. Using quads, hamstrings and glutes, create small presses (little pliés). Although upper body will be lifted up and down by movement in legs, ensure no movement originates from upper body. Repeat presses with arms in second position. Repeat presses with arms in fifth position. Repeat presses with arms held. 

Straddle Sit Stretch 

Begin in straddle sit, feet pointed. Stretch upper body over right leg (ribcage front), reach left arm up to fifth position and place right arm on inside of right leg, hold. 

Stretch upper body over left leg (ribcage front), reach right arm up to fifth position and place left arm on inside of left leg, hold. Stretch upper body over right leg (torso turned toward leg), wrap right arm behind lower back and reach left arm to outside of right ankle, hold. Stretch upper body over left leg (torso turned toward leg), wrap left arm behind lower back and reach right arm to outside of left ankle, hold. Flex feet; bring torso forward through center of both legs, leading with ribcage. Reach arms forward, walk hands front, increasing the stretch. 

Head 

Begin in straddle stand, knees soft. Lower chin toward chest, lift chin and look toward ceiling. Repeat. Look over right shoulder, then over left. Repeat. Drop Tilt head right bringing right ear toward right shoulder. Drop Tilt head left bringing left ear toward left shoulder. Repeat. Slowly roll head clockwise, then counterclockwise. 

Shoulders 

In straddle stand, lift shoulders up toward ears, and then press shoulders down. Roll shoulders backwards and forwards. 

Inhale and Arch, Contract and Roll Up 

Begin in straddle stand, inhale and reach arms overhead in a wide fifth. Arch back, while slowly lowering into grand plie, lowering arms. At lowest point of plie, contract abdominal plane and release upper body toward feet. Contract abdominal muscles and roll up back into standing position, raising arms through second, finishing overhead. Inhale and arch, contract roll up through center of both legs. Repeat. Inhale and arch, contract roll up over right leg. Repeat. Inhale and arch, contract roll up over left leg. Repeat. 

Glutes, Undulations, and Contraction Types

Gluteus Isolations 

In Suhaila’s format, gluteus isolations are introduced with students seated on the floor to ensure the legs are not being used in the initiation of hip work. To walk, plié or add any other leg movement while maintaining your hip work, this isolation between the gluteus and the quads is necessary. As you begin to develop your gluteus, you will probably begin to feel it at the very base, the lower gluteus (maximus). Soon, the contraction will creep its way up 

into the middle gluteus (medius), where you will feel the strength develop enough to see the movement clearly. The next goal is to extend the contraction into the upper gluteus (minimus). The final result will be that all three parts of the gluteus contract together to form a strong, full gluteus contraction. 

Undulations 

Undulations are separated into four basic types in Suhaila’s format: A) undulations up to down from the waist up, B) undulations down to up from the waist up, C) undulations up to down from the waist down and D) undulations down to up from the waist down. Undulations from the waist up and the waist down can be combined as four-part undulations. 

Hard and Soft Contractions 

With movement drills on the floor, students begin working with hard and soft contractions. A hard contraction involves a sharp and precise contraction and a sharp and precise release of the muscle. This action results in a more staccato or percussive appearance. A soft contraction involves a fluid, but still precise, contraction and release of a muscle(s) in a continuous, fluid manner. 

Movement Drills on the Floor

Gluteus Squeezes 

Begin in straddle sit; place hands on floor slightly in front of inner thighs. Contract one gluteus and then release. Alternate contracting (and releasing) right and left gluteus. Drill right side contract, then left.  Drill contract of both gluteus together. 

Cat and Cow 

Start on hands and knees, hands shoulder width apart and knees hip width apart; spine straight, looking at floor. 

Cat: Contract abdomen, drawing chin to chest. Pull navel toward spine, creating arc with  torso. Transition: Pass through neutral middle position (starting position). 

Cow: Arch back, contracting muscles along the sides of spine. Tailbone and head press toward ceiling, navel drops down to floor. Transition: Pass through neutral middle position (starting position). 

Cat and Cow in Movement- Preparation for Undulations Up to Down 

Start on hands and knees, hands shoulder width apart and knees hip width apart; spine straight, looking at floor. Bend elbows and scoop upper body down through arms contracting upper back and moving into Cow. Continue upper body circle by contracting upper abdominals; then lower abdominals moving into Cat while pulling back over knees. 

Cat and Cow in Movement- Preparation for Undulations Down to Up 

Start with hips pulled back over heels, arms stretched forward shoulder width apart. 

Begin with contraction of lower abdominals, then move into contraction of upper abdominals to come up into Cat over arms. Shoulders should be directly over wrists. Bend elbows and scoop down through arms contracting upper back into Cow and pulling back over knees. 

Undulation Beginning Position: Seated on floor 

Sit cross-legged on the floor. Keep upper body lifted and spine straight. Relax shoulders and keep pelvis neutral. 

Undulation Up to Down – From the Waist Up 

Contract upper back. 

Simultaneously release upper back and contract upper abdominals. 

Simultaneously release upper abdominals and contract lower abdominals. 

Release lower abdominals, return to basic posture. 

Practice with both hard and soft contractions. 

Undulation Down to Up – From the Waist Up 

Contract lower abdominals. 

Simultaneously release lower abdominals and contract upper abdominals. 

Simultaneously release upper abdominals and contract upper back. 

Release upper back, return to basic posture. 

Practice with both hard and soft contractions. 

The following movements can be done sitting cross-legged on the floor or in straddle sit. 

Ribcage Locks 

Lift ribcage up, by contracting lats and pulling shoulder blades together (upper back contraction). 

Pull ribcage down into spine by contracting upper abdominals. 

Ribcage Slides 

Slide ribcage to right by contracting left upper oblique. 

Slide ribcage to left by contracting right upper oblique. 

Ribcage Squares 

Use sharp contractions and releases to create a ribcage square (moving CW):

Upper back contraction, bringing ribcage front. 

Left upper oblique (sliding right). 

Upper abdominal contraction, bringing ribcage back /down. 

Right upper oblique (sliding left). 

Reverse moving CCW. Practice beginning downbeat on any one of the four contractions.

Ribcage Circle 

Smooth out the following four contractions of the ribcage square creating soft contractions and releases (moving CW): 

Upper back contraction, bringing ribcage front. 

Left upper oblique (sliding right). 

Upper abdominal contraction, bringing ribcage back /down. 

Right upper oblique (sliding left). 

Reverse moving CCW. Practice beginning downbeat on any one of the four contractions. 

Arm Waves 

Simultaneously lift one body part up as you release the previous one(s). Practice both with hard contractions (sharp, staccato) and soft contractions (smooth, fluid). 

Arm Wave In to Out: 

Shoulder. Elbow. Wrist. Knuckle. Knuckle. Repeat. 

Arm Wave Out to In: 

Knuckle. Knuckle. Wrist. Elbow. Shoulder. Repeat.

Home Position

Home position is the foundational body posture upon which all movements are layered. Home position serves as your center and grounding position. Awareness of your posture and center of balance are essential. Feet are parallel, in jazz first; knees are bent, and the lower abdominals are slightly contracted to maintain a flat back and protect the lower back. The chest is lifted, by contracting the lats; the diaphragm is open; shoulders are down, and the arms are rounded above the head in a high fifth position. In Foundations 1, I begin the introduction of all my basic isolations in Home Position. 

Downbeat Options

Each movement has more than one downbeat choice. For movements such as alternating glute squeezes, which have two muscle contractions, you have two downbeat options. So, for alternating singles, you can practice with the right glute contracting on the downbeat or the left glue contracting on the downbeat. For movements like interior hip squares, you can have the downbeat on any of the four contractions moving in either direction (clockwise-CW or counterclockwise-CCW). This would result in eight different options to practice: downbeat front CW, downbeat right CW, downbeat back CW, downbeat left moving CW, downbeat front CCW, downbeat right CCW, downbeat back CCW, and downbeat left CCW. 

Every downbeat options (and directional options, when applicable, such as CW or Up-to-Down) can then be layered on top various foot patterns, and each of those foot patterns can have a different downbeat and directional option from that of the belly dance movement. 

Rythm and Timing

To begin walking or dancing to music, you must first understand some basic aspects of music. A dancer should understand the timing and underlying rhythm of a piece of music to move in harmony with it. When dancing, the downbeat of the music is the main structure that movement forms around. A dancer’s eight count is based on the downbeat of the music, and the “and” count comes out of the upbeat. The timing is based off of the tempo of a particular piece of music and that will dictate the speed of a dancer’s execution of a set of movements. In Foundations 1, students focus on quartertime and halftime movements. 

Downbeat

In a 4/4 timing, the downbeat is the steady pulse underlying every rhythmic beat (1, 2, 3 & 4). 

Upbeat

The upbeat is the steady pulse exactly in between each downbeat. 

4/4 Timing Upbeat and Downbeat

In a 4/4 timing the count of “and” (the upbeat) is between each downbeat. 

Quartertime in 4/4 Timing

Count the pulse is on counts of 1. 

Halftime in 4/4 Timing

Find the pulse is on counts of 1 and 3. 

Fulltime in 4/4 Timing

Count the pulse is on counts 1, 2, 3 and 4. 

Doubletime in 4/4 Timing

Find pulse is on counts, 1, &, 2, &, 3, &, 4, and &.

Belly Dance Movements

Begin all movements in Home Position. 

Standing Gluteus Contractions 

Contract and release right gluteus. Contract and release left gluteus. 

Twists 

Keeping upper body still, use left lower oblique to twist right hip forward, on a horizontal plain, towards 12 o’clock. At full extension of twist, contract right gluteus. Reverse using right lower oblique to move left hip towards 12 o’clock, ending with a contraction of left gluteus.

Pelvic Locks 

Contract lower back muscles, while releasing lower abdominals. Contract lower abdominals, while releasing lower back muscles.

Interior Hip Square 

Use hard contractions and releases. 

Interior hip square clockwise: Lower abdominal contraction. Right gluteus contraction. Lower back contraction. Left gluteus contraction. 

Interior hip square counterclockwise: Lower abdominal contraction. Left gluteus contraction. Lower back contraction. Right gluteus contraction. 

Interior Hip Circle 

Using soft contractions, moving in a fluid, circular motion. 

Interior hip circle clockwise: Lower abdominal contraction. Right gluteus contraction. Lower back contraction. Left gluteus contraction. 

Interior hip circle counter-clockwise: Lower abdominal contraction. Left gluteus contraction. Lower back contraction. Right gluteus contraction. 

Exterior Hip Circle 

Smoothly move in a circular motion. 

Exterior hip circle clockwise: Lower back contraction, hips move forward. Left lower oblique contraction, hips slide right. Lower abdominal contraction, hips move back. Right lower oblique contraction, hips slide left. Smoothly move in a circular motion. 

Exterior hip circle counterclockwise: Lower back contraction, hips move forward. Right lower oblique contraction, hips slide left. Lower abdominal contraction, hips move back. Left lower oblique contraction, hips slide right. 

Figure Eight Up to Down 

Using left lower oblique, lift right hip up then slide it out to side. 

As right hip moves downward toward floor, left hip lifts, sliding through center. 

Using right lower oblique, lift left hip up slide it out to side. 

As left hip moves downward toward floor, right hip lifts. 

Figure Eight Down to Up 

Using right lower oblique, drop right hip down. 

Slide right hip out to side. Then right hip lifts and pulls through center. 

Engage left lower oblique allowing left hip to drop. 

Slide left hip out to side. 

As left hip lifts and pulls through center, right hip drops. 

Figure Eight Back to Front 

Using right lower oblique, slide right hip back to 6 o’clock. 

Move right hip from right back corner to side at 3 o’clock. 

Right hip moves front to 12 o’clock and pulls through center as left lower oblique engages and left hip moves back to 6 o’clock. 

Slide left hip from left back corner to side at 9 o’clock. 

Bring left hip front to 12 o’clock and pull into center as right hip moves back again to 6 o’clock. 

Figure Eight Front to Back 

Using left lower oblique, slide right hip front to 12 o’clock. 

Move right hip from right front corner to side at 3 o’clock, using left lower oblique. 

Right hip moves back to 6 o’clock and pulls through center as left hip moves front to 12 o’clock. 

Using right lower oblique, move left hip from front left corner to side at 9 o’clock. 

Left hip moves back to 6 o’clock and pulls through center, as right hip again moves front to 12 o’clock. 

Dance Movement Drills at the Barre

Eleve 

Press through the foot from flat foot up to demi point. Eleve is the action into releve. Releve After moving through eleve, your foot ends in demi point, also called releve. 

Foot Peel 

In first position, arms in second position, place your weight on the right leg. Bring left foot to demi point, then to full point, pushing toes off of floor. Then bring toes back down to full point, and then demi point before bringing heel down to first position. Repeat using right foot. 

Tendue (Front, Side, Back) 

Stand in first position, arms in second position. Lead with heel to maintain turn out, brush right foot forward to 12 o’clock never ceasing contact with the floor. Bring leg back to first position. Guide right leg to point side (following natural line of turnout). Bring leg back to first position. Guide leg to point back to 6 o’clock. Bring leg back to first position. Repeat using left leg. 

Degage (Front, Side, Back) 

Stand in first position, arms in second position. Brush and point right leg front through tendue and then slightly lift off floor to 12 o’clock in one movement. Return to first position. Brush and point right leg side (following natural line of turnout) through tendue and then slightly lift of floor in one movement. Return to first position. Brush and point right leg back through tendue and then slightly lift of floor to 6 o’clock in one movement. Return to first position. Repeat using left leg. 

Battement (Front, Side, Back) 

Stand in first position, arms in second position. Brush right leg front and off floor into a high degage (using inner thigh) to 12 o’clock. Release back down into first position. Brush right leg side and off floor into a high degage to the side (following natural line of turnout). Release back down into first position. Brush right leg back and off the floor into a high degage to 6 o’clock. Release back down into first position. Repeat using left leg. 

Demi Pliés 

Standing in first position, descend into plie (as far as possible without lifting heels). Plie, then straighten legs. Repeat with right foot in demi point, left foot flat. Reverse, left foot in demi point, right foot flat. 

Grand Pliés 

Standing in first position, descend into deep plié (as far as possible without disengaging the quads). Keep back straight and legs turned out from hips. Repeat. 

Traveling with Movements

When you begin to walk with the Suhaila Salimpour Belly Dance Format of belly dance movements, there are three basic things you need to know before you take your first step. You need to know where your downbeat is (on the right or left foot), what timing are you walking at (quartertime, halftime, fulltime or doubletime), and what movement you are executing (glutes, twists, pelvic locks, etc.). In Foundations 1, I focus mainly on quartertime and halftime movements. 

Practice

The following drills should be practiced to music with a basic 4/4 rhythm, to heighten downbeat awareness. 

 – Walk quartertime with right foot stepping on the downbeat moving forward, back, to the right, and to the left.   Next walk quartertime with left foot stepping on the downbeat moving forward, back, to the right, and to the left. 

 – Walk halftime with right foot stepping on the downbeat moving forward, back, to the right, and to the left.   Next walk halftime with left foot stepping on the downbeat moving forward, back, to the right, and to the left. 

Adding Belly Dance Moves

Add the following movements quartertime and halftime, varying the downbeat options (and directional options when applicable) to all of the walking foot patterns above. Remember that the feet and bellydance movements are not limited to the same timing and downbeat. So, for example, you can walk halftime downbeat on the right foot moving forward as you execute alternating glute squeezes quartertime downbeat on the left. 

Alternating Singles (Glute Squeezes) 

Twists 

Pelvic Locks Front, then Back

Interior Hip Squares CW, then CCW

Interior Hip Circles CW, then CCW

Exterior Hip Circles  CW, then CCW

Figure 8s Up-to-Down, then Down-to-Up 

Figure 8s Front-to-Back, then Back-to-Front

Ribcage Locks and Slides

Ribcage Squares and Circles CW, then CCW

Undulations Up-to-Down, then Down-to-Up (hard contractions)

Undulations Up-to-Down, then Down-to-U[ (soft contractions)

Most foot patterns below are described in detail using only one foot as the starting foot. Remember to reverse the foot patterns to practice starting on both the right foot and the left foot. Unless otherwise noted, all foot patterns should be practiced both flat and in demi point. 

Walking Flat Foot 

Step one foot and then the other, weight evenly distributed between ball and heel of foot. 

Walking in Releve 

With feet in releve/demi point, step by alternating between right foot and left foot. 

Step Touch 

Step forward with right foot flat. Then touch ball of left foot parallel to ball of right foot. Step left foot flat, touch ball of right foot parallel to ball of left foot. 

Walk 3, Step Touch on 4 

Step forward with right foot, then left foot, then right foot, touch ball of left foot parallel to ball of right foot. Then step forward with left foot, then right foot, then left foot, touch ball of right foot parallel to ball of left foot. 

Walk 3, Jazz Passe on 4 

Step forward with right foot, then left foot, then right foot, then bring left leg to jazz passé. Next, step forward with left foot, then right foot, then left foot, then bring right leg to jazz passé. 

Grapevine 

Moving laterally right, cross left foot in front of right foot then, step out to second position with right foot. Then, cross left foot in back of right foot, step out to second position with right foot. 

Chasse 

Step right leg out to side then, step left foot parallel to right. Repeat. 

Alternating Chasse 

Step right leg forward. Step left leg forward to meet the right leg and then step right forward to meet the left.  Then step the left leg forward.  Step the right forward to meet the left, and then the left forward to meet the right.  Repeat. 

Pas de Bourree 

Step right leg in back of left leg, step left leg out to side in second position, then step in place with right foot. Next, step left leg in back of right leg. Step right leg out to side in second position, then step in place with left foot. 

Cross Touch 

Cross right foot in from of left. Extend left leg out straight to left side, touching left toe on floor. Cross left foot in front of right. Extend right leg out straight to right side, touching toe on floor. Repeat.

Turns

Spotting for Turn

Start facing mirror. Make a series of little steps turning clockwise while looking in mirror. When you have turned so far you can no longer hold your neck straight looking at yourself in mirror, quickly turn your head clockwise to keep looking at mirror. Continue little steps to return to starting position. 

Half Turns 

Step out with right foot to second position facing front, arms in second position. Take left foot off floor and turn 180 degrees clockwise to the right to face back wall, step out to second position with left leg. Take right foot off floor and turn 180 degrees clockwise to the right to face front, step out to second position with right leg. Reverse leading with left foot, turning counter clockwise. 

3-Step Turns 

Step out with right foot to second position facing front. Take left foot off floor and turn 180 degrees clockwise to the right to face back wall, step out to second position with left leg. Take right foot off the floor and turn 180 degrees clockwise to the right to face front, step out to second position with right leg. Bring left leg in and touch parallel to right foot (keep weight on right foot). Reverse leading with left foot, turning counter clockwise. 

Chaine Turns 

See half turns but bring leg into first position releve and increase speed. 

Finger Cymbals

A finger cymbal is a brass disc, which has either one or two perforations, into which elastic is inserted, preferably flat and tied in a square knot to avoid enlarging during use. Finger cymbals come in sets of four. The finger cymbals are applied, two on each hand, one to the thumb and one to the middle finger. Your elastic should rest just below the nail and almost on the first knuckle. 

The first evidence of the use of finger cymbals is believed to be around 500 BC. They were used in Carthage and believed to be Phoenician. Dancers in Rome were documented using castanets imported from Syria between 250 BC and 100AD. Finger cymbals have also been referred to as metal castanets. 

Practice

Use all foot patterns and traveling movement drills in halftime. Keep arms in fifth position while playing the following cymbal patterns. 

Quartertime: single on R hand. 

Quartertime: single on L hand. 

Halftime: single on the R hand. 

Halftime: single on the L hand. 

Quartertime: alternating singles (right hand dominant). 

Quartertime: alternating singles (left hand dominant). 

Halftime: alternating singles (right hand dominant). 

Halftime: alternating singles (left hand dominant). 

Fulltime: alternating singles (right hand dominant). 

Fulltime: alternating singles (left hand dominant). 

Halftime: R,L,R (3). Downbeat on 3. 

Halftime: L,R,L (3). Downbeat on 3. 

Glossary

Arms Fifth Position

Arms are up, rounded above your head and placed in front of your ears.  Elbows are bent and pressed back, shoulders down, hands soft and palms facing in. 

Arms Low First Position

Arms in front of pelvic area, close to the body, arms rounded (elbows pressed to the side), shoulders down, palms facing in. Hands below the waistline. 

Arms High First Position

Arms rounded in front of chest, elbows pressed side, shoulders down, and palms facing in. Hands just below chest. 

Arms Second Position

Arms are out to the side, slightly in front of the body and making a gradual decline from shoulder level (forearms are lower than biceps). Elbows are bent and lifted, hands soft and facing in. 

Battement

(bath-MAHn) Literally means beating. A continuation of a degage, creating a large beating action with the leg., Lead with the heel, move through tendu, then through degage, and keeping the leg straight and turned out bring it up as high as you can into battement. 

Beat

The infrastructure of the rhythm of a particular piece of music. 

Chaine

(sheh-NAY) A series of very small steps done in first position releve, with a half turn to each step. 

Chasse

(shah-SAY) A movement in which one leg chases the other leg out of position. Alternating chasses are done facing front or back. To execute an alternating chasse the right leg steps in front, the left leg steps to meet the right leg, then the right leg steps out. The chasse is then repeated starting on the left leg. In executing a chasse to the side, the feet maintain a position where they are parallel, and you step out with the leading leg and meet it with the following leg. 

Degage

(day-gah-ZHAY) Literally, degage means to disengage. The movement begins in the same manner as a tendu, however, the brushing of the toes propels the working leg to come off and “disengage” from the floor a few inches before returning to its closed position. The working foot points as it disengages from the floor. 

Demi Plié

Bending the knees as far as you can without heels disengaging from floor. One exception: in second, the heels remain on the floor and you plié as far as half of your grand plié. 

Demi Point

Putting all of your weight into the balls of your feet by pressing your heels off of the floor. Pull up through the ankles to get the heels up as far up as they can go. 

Downbeat

In a 4/4 timing, your downbeat is the steady pulse underlying every rhythmic beat. 

Eleve

The action of pressing through the foot and rising from flat foot up to demi point. 

Fifth Position

Legs together, turned out from the hips. One foot directly in front of the other, as in fourth position, but the heel of the front foot is touching the toes of the back foot. 

First Position

Legs together, turned out from the hips. Heels touching. Toes out to the side. 

Flat Feet

Toes and heels on the floor, weight evenly distributed throughout the foot. 

Fourth Position

Legs turned out from the hips. One foot directly in front of the other, about six inches apart. The heel of the foot in front is parallel to the toes of the foot in back. 

Grand Plie

Bend the knees over the line of the toes until the heels disengage from the floor then, continue as far as you can without disengaging the quads. *Exception: In second position the heels do not release from the floor. 

Grapevine

Traveling laterally to the left, the right foot crosses in front of the left foot, then the left foot takes a step to the side, then the right foot crosses behind the left foot, then the left foot steps to the side again. The grapevine can also be done lalterally to the right with the left foot crossing in front of and behind the right foot. 

Home Position

Standing in jazz first, feet flat, knees bent, and lower abdominals slightly contracted to keep your pelvis from tilting back. Ribcage lifted, shoulders down. Arms rounded over your head in fifth position and far enough forward so that if you look side you would be looking behind your arms. 

Jazz First

Legs together and turned in. Feet parallel, toes pointing front. 

Jazz Fourth

One leg in front of the other, about six inches apart. Feet parallel. 

Jazz Passé

In jazz first, put all of your weight on one leg. Then bend your other leg and draw the foot to the inside of your supporting leg’s knee, keeping knees facing front. 

Jazz Second

Legs shoulder width apart. Feet parallel, toes pointing front. 

Knees Soft

A slight bend in the knee releasing pressure from having knees locked. 

Melody

The tune that is played on top of the rhythm. The melody plays along with the beat and follows the same tempo. 

Pas de Bourre

Three step movement that begins with right leg crossing behind left leg, then the left leg takes a step out to second position, then the right leg steps in place. The left leg steps behind the right leg, the right foot steps out to second position, and the left foot steps in place. There is a weight transfer on each step. This is often repeated starting on the left. 

Passé

Weight on one supporting, turned out leg. Staying turned out, bend your working leg and draw the foot up to the inside of the supporting leg’s knee. Keep your turn out (both knees facing side) and make sure you are not resting your foot on your knee. 

Plie

(plee-AY) A bending movement of the knees. The weight is centered evenly over both legs. 

Releve

(ruh-leh-VAY) Literally, releve means relifted. The act of rising to demi-point. After you have gone through eleve, your foot ends up in demi point. This position is considered releve. 

Rhythm

The count on one bar, for example: 4/4, !, and 2/4. 

Second Position

Legs turned out from the hips, shoulder width apart. Toes out to the side. 

Straddle Pike

Standing in straddle stand with the upper body bent over to the floor. 

Straddle Sit

Sitting on the floor with your legs out to the side. 

Straddle Squat

A wide second position, with knees bent, thighs parallel to floor. Upper body is flat and parallel to floor. Hips are in line with the shoulders, knees back. Feet turned out, knees directly above ankles and pointing in the same line as feet. 

Straddle Stand

Your legs are in a wide second position, weight centered, back straight. 

Tempo

The speed of a rhythm. 

Tendue

(tahn-DIU) Literally tendue means stretched. In tendues, the toes never leave the floor. Starting in first, third, or fifth position, lead with the heel of the working leg and keep the legs straight and turned out from hips. Leg begins in a closed position and extends and brushes forward, side, and/or back. 

Timing

The variation of the pulse counts within music, the moments where you find the downbeat within a particular piece of music. For example: quartertime, halftime, fulltime, and doubletime. 

Turnout

An internal rotation of the legs starting at the hips traveling through the leg ending with an outward rotation of the feet (toes to the side). Turning out from the hips as far as you can without altering your body alignment. 

Upbeat

Your upbeat is the steady pulse exactly in between each downbeat. In a 4/4 timing, the count of “and” is between each downbeat.

The content from this post is excerpted from Suhaila Salimpour Belly Dance Format. Fundamentals 1 Study Guide, published by Suhaila International in 2008. This Study Guide is an overview of the Fundamentals 1 course in the Suhaila Salimpour Belly Dance format.

If you would like to make a citation for this article, we suggest the following format: Salimpour, S. (2008/2023). Suhaila Salimpour Belly Dance Format. Fundamentals 1 Study Guide. Salimpour School. Retrieved -insert retrieval date-, from https://suhaila.com/welcome-to-fundamentals-1

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