Rolling Hips - Belly Dance Moves and Lessons
There are 3 basic rolling hip moves that are the foundation for the soft, rolling hip patterns that are performed in belly dance. Watch a group perform these rolling hip movements as a lesson drill in a belly dance video clip. As demonstrated by professional belly dance Dahlia, these belly dance moves are most often danced to slow and moderate tempos of belly dance music. Once these 3 belly dance core moves are learned, the belly dancer can use core techniques to create a variety of movement sequences for all styles of belly dance.
Belly Dance Posture and Basic Stance
It's very important to use proper posture in belly dance. There are a variety of ways you can stand for your rolling hip moves, but basic stance is the posture belly dancers use most often.
Basic Belly Dance Stance: Stand with your feet apart, about shoulder width apart with both feet flat on the ground and your toes pointing forward. You should feel comfortable with your weight equally distributed between both feet. Your knees should be ever so slightly bent but they should feel relaxed, flexible and ready for movement. Your hips and pelvis should be centered and level to the ground. Finally, your ribcage should be pulled gently up with the stomach held but comfortable, and shoulders relaxed.
It is important to note your center axis or vertical body alignment. To help, visualize a line running from the top of your head, through the center of your torso, and exiting between your feet.
There are many arm positions and arm movements that can accompany basic belly dance stance, but when you are first perfecting the core move, it's easiest to just hold the arms in a graceful and comfortable pose.
Everyone's body type is unique. If necessary, make subtle adjustments to your stance so that you feel comfortable, centered, and balanced for your belly dancing.
Belly Dance Isolation Techniques
It's easiest to learn the core moves of belly dance by first isolating them. That is, moving only the area of the body necessary for the core belly dance move and keeping the rest of the body still. By isolating the belly dance move, you can perfect it in its most basic form and later add other body moves as you increase the complexity of your belly dancing performance. For the basic belly dance rolling hip moves, you can isolate by keeping the upper body still and just moving from the hips down.
1) Belly Dance Hip Figure 8's
There are 2 basic types of figure 8 hip rolls in belly dance, the horizontal and the vertical. It's best to learn each type in its most basic form before you try learning creative variations.
Horizontal Hip Figure 8 - Back-To-Forward Version
The horizontal figure 8 is also called a forward & back or hip-twisting figure 8 in belly dance. Standing in a comfortable basic stance, pretend that a large figure 8 is painted on the floor and you are standing in the middle of it, with one circle of the 8 to your right side and the other circle to your left side. Isolate your hips and twist your right hip back, slide it out to the side and twist it forward. This puts you in position to repeat the belly dance move on your left side - the left hip is now twisted back, and you can slide out to the side, and twist it forward. When you complete the belly dance movement on one hip, it automatically positions the other hip to repeat the movement so that you can continuously flow from one hip to the other in a fluid manner. Keep your hips level to the ground as you trace your figure 8. It's also important to keep the legs and knees relaxed so that your hips have freedom of movement.
Horizontal Hip Figure 8 - Forward-To-Back
For a forward-to-back version, you can reverse the direction of your figure 8. Isolate your hips and twist your right hip forward, slide out to the side and twist it back. Repeat on your left hip which is now twisted forward, by sliding it out to the side, and twisting backward. Continue from one hip to the other, making a fluid figure 8.
Vertical Hip Figure 8 - Down-To-Up Version
The vertical figure 8 is also called an up & down figure 8. To do the down-to-up version of the vertical figure 8, pretend that you are facing a wall with an infinity symbol painted on it. It looks like a figure 8 lying on its' side with one loop of the 8 to the right and the other loop to the left.
Assume the basic belly dance stance and push your right hip down, slide it out to the side, lift it up, and then pull it back to its starting point in your centered basic stance. Repeat with the left hip. Push the left hip down, slide it out to the side, lift it up, and bring it back to center. The legs and knees will be pulled up and down with this move, so keep them flexible. Your feet will also be pulled up and down, with your heels coming up off the floor.
Let your heel lift up as the hip on that side of the body lifts up. As the hip rolls downward, the heel drops flat to the ground. The same thing repeats on the other side of the body. Make sure you do not twist your hips in a vertical figure 8; instead your hips will face forward at all times. Practice until the movement flows gracefully from one side to the other.
Vertical Hip Figure 8 - Up-To-Down Version
For the up-to-down version of the vertical hip figure 8 (sometimes called a 'Maya' figure 8), you can reverse the direction of your hip move. Your hips will now start by lifting up, sliding out to the side, dropping down, and going back to center and repeating smoothly on the other side. It is possible to do this movement with the feet flat at all times. Rather than allowing the heels to lift up, keeping the feet flat is more difficult for many bellydancers and forces you to lower your center of gravity by bending your knees more and to use the upper leg and lower torso muscles more deeply.
2) Belly Dance Hip Circle
In the basic hip circle, we use our hips to trace a small to medium sized circle that is horizontal to the ground. You can stand in a basic belly dance stance, but a straight leg stance is often easier when you are first learning the hip circle. The straight leg stance is the same as the basic stance, but with the knees held straight (but never locked). In the stance of your choice, isolate your hips and slide them out to your right side; push them back and to your left side; push them forward and to your right side again as you complete your circle. Keep your upper torso vertically aligned to the floor as you trace the circle and try to keep your hips as level as you comfortably can. Keep repeating the move sliding to your right side, then back, to the left side, and then forward until you achieve a smooth continuous circle.
3) Vertical Belly Dance Hip Circle (Bicycle Hips)
A vertical hip circle is also called bicycle hips. Isolate your hips in basic stance and lift your right hip up, roll forward, push down, push back, and then up to your starting point, tracing a circle that is vertical to the floor. In this movement, your heel will be lifted up off the floor as the hip rolls up and pushed down as the hip rolls down, similar to pedaling a bicycle. This movement is best viewed from the working side of body, and unlike our figure 8's, the circle is usually perform on one hip only. However, for the best exercise benefits, practice the move on both the right and left hips. Whichever hip is the easier one to work is the one you'll use most often while belly dancing to music.
All circular movement in belly dance can be done clockwise or counter-clockwise. Being proficient with both directions gives your circular moves a wider range of variation for your belly dancing and better exercise benefits.
Learn How to Belly Dance with Atéa's Videos
These basic rolling hip moves are taught in the Bellydance! Magical Motion available in a DVD format or VHS video tape.
Advanced rolling hip moves are taught in the Bellydance! Fast Moves is available in a DVD format or VHS video tape.
Return to section page about the belly dance articles.