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  1. #1
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    Default Legs vs. Abs during "tilts"

    Hello all, Just thought I'd ask this question and hear anyone's/everyone's take on it!

    When I was taking lessons where I used to live, we spent a lot of time on small hip lift type of movements--flat footed, just under the rib cage up and down, and my teacher really emphasized using the abs to do these. They were quite challenging at first, but I think that, since we did these exercises every time, they really helped, especially in just gaining awareness in the abdomen.

    Since I've moved, I'm depending on DVDs to get by. I started watching Beautiful Technique with Autumn Ward, and she does what she calls "side to side tilts," which come from the legs going from "more bent to less bent." At first they kind of look like the same movement, but Autumn even says, "do not use the abs" for this movement, and she says the abs-driven move is more challenging and a different move altogether. Her version of the tilt shifts from side to side and even "swings" a little bit.

    So my question is, since Autumn acknowledges these ab-driven movements but does not cover them in the video, I don't really know where they fit in. Should I just add her tilts to my drills routine, substitute, or what? When is each variation more appropriate? Hopefully you can understand what I mean by this!

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    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RahimaMJR View Post
    So my question is, since Autumn acknowledges these ab-driven movements but does not cover them in the video, I don't really know where they fit in. Should I just add her tilts to my drills routine, substitute, or what? When is each variation more appropriate? Hopefully you can understand what I mean by this!
    Autumn's "tilts" are probably my "scoops" - knees are bent in the middle and straighten a little at the side where the pelvis is out and up (the line from one bump to the other is on a diagonal). The first version, I call "hip rocks" - the emphasis is on moving up and down within the width of the hip - and ideally using the obliques and QLs.

    I teach scoops at community classes - briefly. Basically I don't find them very useful in that they don't go any where and they encourage bad habits. I start hip rocks on the first day with new beginners in my studio - allowing them to use their legs for a few weeks. Hip rocks are the basis of a waist driven shimmy, shimmy walks, hip lifts and drops. They are vital underlying technique and they need to be done right.

    If you feel like it, add her tilts into your warm-up - but drill the other version - they will be far more useful in the long run.

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    Hi Rajima,

    I just reviewed that section of Autumn's DVD. The "tilt" that she explains is exactly the basic hip movement that I was taught first thing in beginner's class. The teachers I've studied with explain it quite similarly, except shifting the weight less visibly between the legs. This "tilt" is the basis for the leg-driven shimmy, shimmy walk, triple shimmy, hip drop... just as Autumn explains it. So it's a very versatile and useful move.

    About the abs-driven movement you're describing, well that's indeed a different thing but useful too. You need the muscles of side of the abdomen for many things, like upwards and downwards figure eights and such... so I wouldn't neglect that either.
    I'm surprised that you covered that move so early in class. It's interesting to see the different ways to explain things!

    Whoops, I just noticed that the answer before mine said the complete opposite!
    @Kashmir - you say that leg-driven hip tilts encourage bad habits. Would you explain in what way?

    Many teachers around here explain the leg-driven hip "tilt" as the basis of shimmies, hip drops etc. I haven't encountered waist-driven shimmies much at all... So it seems to me that the emphasis of teaching might simply be different in our countries.
    Last edited by Shanazel; 03-29-2012 at 04:55 AM.

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    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manuela View Post
    Whoops, I just noticed that the answer before mine said the complete opposite!
    @Kashmir - you say that leg-driven hip tilts encourage bad habits. Would you explain in what way?

    Many teachers around here explain the leg-driven hip "tilt" as the basis of shimmies, hip drops etc. I haven't encountered waist-driven shimmies much at all... So it seems to me that the emphasis of teaching might simply be different in our countries.
    I have encountered people who base their technique on a leg driven rock - but there is not a noticeable weight shift and the emphasis is on up & down not out to the side - and definitely no scooping motion - the upper body stays level throughout.

    Why do I think it encourages bad habits? Because even done without a weight shift, centred and isolated driving just by the legs gives you limited control and subtlety. But then, I do Egyptian not Turkish. Possibly the leg thing is used more in Turkish style which I believe has a strong influence in Germany.

    But with the weight shift it is very hard to get up to shimmy speed or walk with it - it'd mean you are shifting your weight off and on the stepping leg all the time! With the weight shift you also get a more sideways rather that vertical movement.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kashmir View Post
    I have encountered people who base their technique on a leg driven rock - but there is not a noticeable weight shift and the emphasis is on up & down not out to the side - and definitely no scooping motion - the upper body stays level throughout.

    .. even done without a weight shift, centred and isolated driving just by the legs gives you limited control and subtlety.
    ... with the weight shift it is very hard to get up to shimmy speed or walk with it.
    Yep, agreed. So, as I see it, the leg-driven rock could be viewed as the bare basis of the movement, and in order to achieve additional emphasis, control and subtlety, you add abs muscles to it.
    But I guess starting out focusing on the abs would work as well, or even better, depends. Which reminds me to work on those

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kashmir View Post
    Autumn's "tilts" are probably my "scoops" -
    No. They aren't scoops. (I know what you're describing, and that's not what she teaches here.) I have this dvd and at first I was a little confused by how she taught, but I just chalked it up to "one more way of doing things."


    Rahima:

    Autumn drives most of the movements she teaches on that dvd from the legs. This is consistent with what Raqia Hassan taught in one of her workshops in the US, but inconsistent with contemporary technique as it is taught by a lot of the other Egyptians.

    I do, however, ADORE the way her figure 8s look, when driven from the bending and straightening of the legs.

    Sahra Kent showed us a number of different movements you could drive from the legs that would give you a more "earthy" or grounded and heavy feeling when you do them. Neither style (from legs or abs) is "right" or "wrong." They both have their uses, depending upon the music and how they make you feel. Personally, there are some baladi pieces that make me want to use nothing but my abs to move, and others that seem to make me want to use more of the legs, exploring the foot/floor connection, and pushing up against gravity. Let the music and your mood guide you, but I would practice both styles. If nothing else, you'll get a great lower body workout

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    Junior Member AutumnWard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RahimaMJR View Post
    So my question is, since Autumn acknowledges these ab-driven movements but does not cover them in the video, I don't really know where they fit in.
    For everything in Beautiful Technique, Iím using the neutral-pelvis alignment that I introduce at the beginning of the DVD: soft knees, natural curve in the low back, and just enough abdominal engagement to keep the pelvis from spilling forward into an anterior tilt. For what Iíd call "up-and-down hips" (the core-driven see-sawing lateral articulations youíre asking about), I use a subtly different "engaged" alignment: straighter legs, a little more engagement in the low abdomen, and a little more feeling of the tailbone reaching down. I would still describe the the pelvis as neutral, but more drawn in, so the low back is a little longer.

    I think it's somewhat unusual (at least among dancers who focus on a particular style) to use two different alignments, but I use them because they open up different ranges of motion, and bring two different kinds of presence to dancing. Some movements can be done from either, although the underlying stance will affect the moveís look and feel, but leg-driven tilts and the vocabulary I evolve from them in BTís "Tilts, Drops, and Shimmies" chapter are restricted by an engaged stance, while core-driven ups-and-downs donít work well (for most dancers) in neutral. If I try to do up-and-down movement in a neutral stance I feel like the quadratus muscles want to activate in a way that crunches my low backóthey want to increase the curve thatís already there and lift my butt toward my back rather than lifting the side of the hip toward the side of the bodyóand the obliques have to really pull hard to tug the movement into the desired trajectory. In an engaged stance I can feel the oblique abs (in the front) and quadratus (in the back) smoothly working together.

    Solely as a matter of preference and style, I default to neutral-pelvis when engagement isnít necessary. Since it is thus "basic" for me, and BT is already crammed full of more stuff than most people know what to do with, itís what made it into the DVD. If there were a BT2, it would pick up with engaged stance, describe core-driven technique for lateral articulations, and then progress through up-and-down hips, traveling with weighted downs, downward-tilting hip circles (combining weighted downs and the "backwards tuck" from BT), and vertical plane figures-of-8. (Especially if you drive out of your feet you can also evolve vertical 8s out of tilts rather than ups-and-downs, but I generally prefer the more sinuous version you get from using core muscles). I also use engaged stance for unweighted twists, for the straight-legged Egyptian shimmy (as opposed to the soft-knee one in BT), and to give a specifically modern Egyptian look to vocabulary (like horizontal-plane figures of 8) that can be done in either alignment.

    Quote Originally Posted by RahimaMJR View Post
    Should I just add her tilts to my drills routine, substitute, or what?
    I start every class at every level with tilts, but you should drill the movements that you want to use in your dancing. Both the material in BTís "Tilts, Drops and Shimmies" chapter and ups-and-downs are very important to me, but I really value versatility. Itís certainly not necessary to have a huge vocabulary to create beautiful dances. If you look, for instance, at the "Golden Age" Egyptian greats, they really arenít using all that many moves.

    As Manuela and Aziyade have pointed out tilts and ups-and-downs arenít two versions of the same thing, but really two different moves. One doesnít displace or replace the other. But, for instance, if you are primarily working in modern Egyptian style, it would make sense for your foundation to be engaged stance, and spending a lot of time training vocabulary that only works in neutral stance probably doesnít make much sense. It would be like training floorwork or finger cymbalsóit would make you a more well-rounded dancer, but you might not have much occasion to use it.

    Quote Originally Posted by RahimaMJR View Post
    When is each variation more appropriate? Hopefully you can understand what I mean by this!
    Mostly, choosing which to use is a matter of style. As a TOTAL generalization, Egyptian style generally laterally articulates with ups-and-downs in Oriental, but if thereís a cutesy or folklore move thrown in, it may have a tilting aspect. Turkish style is more likely to tilt, but with contemporary Egyptian (and American) influence, you might certainly see a Turkish dancer going with up-and-downs. American Vintage, contemporary American Cabaret, and Tribal, depending on the lineage, can go either way or use both. For theatrical Oriental dance or for nontraditional belly dance thatís not style-constrained you may choose to use either or both.

    In a style that uses both moves, the appropriateness of one versus the other may depend a little on how you want to maintain or transition your stance or weight, but mostly itís just a question of musical interpretation and emotional expression. Manuela and Aziyade mention a few considerations. I can talk about this too, but I'm sure this is already more than enough.

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    Junior Member AutumnWard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    No. They aren't scoops.
    Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Autumn drives most of the movements she teaches on that dvd from the legs. This is consistent with what Raqia Hassan taught in one of her workshops in the US, but inconsistent with contemporary technique as it is taught by a lot of the other Egyptians.
    True! Anyone working with BT should keep in mind that it is now a few years old (it filmed in 2008), and isn't meant to teach conventions of any specific cultural style. I think most of BT will work for Raqia "stretch your knee"-type styling, EXCEPT probably side-to-side tilts. I'm a little out of my expertise here, but I think Raqia's leg-driven vocabulary is primarily sagittal rather than lateral. Anyway, hopefully the majority of BT's techniques can be adapted to any belly dance style, but as a style guide it primarily reflects my own aesthetic preferences.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Sahra Kent showed us a number of different movements you could drive from the legs that would give you a more "earthy" or grounded and heavy feeling when you do them.
    Just to add on: Core-driven technique, too, because of the way it pulls through the organ-related emotional centers, can imbue its own different flavor of "earthiness."

    And while leg-driven technique absolutely has great earthy potential, I also use it as a tool for some of my most delicate styling. Unweighted leg-driven drops (in a staggered stance with one heel lifted), to me, feel like precisely placing a china cup on a saucer. I think my heavy use of this technique is one of the main reasons people attribute a "balletic" look to my dancing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Neither style (from legs or abs) is "right" or "wrong."
    I endorse this sentiment in every way. But I would qualify this a little bit, though, for students who are still developing personal style. For most dancers, it really pays off to put in some serious time imitating the dancers they admire and doing what is "right" in the context of their example. For anyone dancing along with BT, tilts are "right." RahimaMJR, it sounds like up-and-downs were "right" in the context of your previous class. Outside of class/video dance-along, though, getting really deeply into the feeling of movements and working from body wisdom can create extraordinary dance.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Personally, there are some baladi pieces that make me want to use nothing but my abs to move, and others that seem to make me want to use more of the legs, exploring the foot/floor connection, and pushing up against gravity.
    Exactly!

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