Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cross-Training for Belly Dance



Ready to take your dance to the next level? Do you have a desire to deepen your body awareness, strengthen your muscles, and shape your overall physique? Then mixing some cross-training into your weekly dance practice might be just the thing for you. What is cross-training?  Cross-training can be just about any other type of dance, sport, or movement.  But if you really want to sync up your exercise with direct benefits to your belly dance practice, you'll want to keep reading for my list of recommended forms of dance and exercise for belly dancers.

Ballet: There is a great deal of cross-over in movements and posture between belly dance and ballet.  Don't believe me? Read my last blog post on Badia Masabni to discover how she fused the two dance forms to create modern belly dance.  Ballet classes will lift your posture, promote grace and fluidity, increase flexibility, and tone major muscle groups. I take weekly ballet classes at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School and I recommend in-person instruction.  However, there are also two at-home DVD options from the Cheeky Girls DVD line, Ballet for Belly Dancers with Brianna and Ballet Blast with Sherena, that are tailored specifically for belly dancers.

Yoga: A big component of any dance style is flexibility. Want to slide down into the splits while balancing your shamadan? Then regular stretching needs to be on the menu. Yoga is a great low-impact way to enhance flexibility while building muscle tone.  Plus, there is also the added benefit of working on connecting movement to breath, a key component of performing.  These days yoga comes in a variety of forms: vinyasa, Bikram, hatha, heated, cardio-fusion, restorative, and kundalini to name a few. Just about anyone kind find the yoga class that appeals to them. If you can't find a yoga studio you like near you, I would recommend the DVDs Daily Energy - Vinyasa Flow Yoga by Shiva Rea for a more traditional approach to yoga, or Yoga Inferno by Jillian Michaels for a yoga-cardio fusion approach.

Barre: A fusion of ballet, pilates, and isometric strength training, the right barre class will have your muscles literally shaking before it's over. You will see and feel the difference.  I've tried most of the major chains and Pure Barre is my favorite.  Classes can be a bit pricey, so if you are looking for an at-home option, I like Xtend Barre: Lean and Chiseled with Andrea Rogers, which infuses a bit more ballet and cardio than most studio classes.

Other Forms of Dance: Ballet deserved it's own category because it's so fundamentally related to belly dance.  But that being said, just about any other style of dance will aid your belly dance, as it will increase your mind-body connection and promote the development of muscle control and emotional expression.  A few other styles in particular to consider delving into are jazz for rhythm and choreography, modern for level changes and extensions, lyrical for turns and emotional gravitas, burlesque for saucy and sassy stage presence, hip hop for intensifying pops and locks, and samba and other Latin dances for footwork and hip articulation.

Pilates: Is another fine-toning based movement approach that combines strengthening and stretching, and was developed predominately with dancers in mind.  Pilates can be done on a mat, or with the assistance of a reformer machine.  Another great option for preparing your body to execute belly dance technique.

Those are my top cross-training recommendations for belly dancers.  However, whether your personal cross-training choice is on this list or not ultimately doesn't matter. The most important thing is to love and move your body every day.  Dance and sweat it out goddesses!


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