Belly dance movements glossary and terminology
Belly Dance Movements

The following list of terms for raqs sharqi movements is not the official codified terminology, as this does not exist for raqs sharqi or belly dance.

It is instead the terminology I have learnt from my teachers over the years and from books and DVDs which I have used for learning.

Therefore, other raqs sharqi practitioners may use slightly different terms for some movements, but the most common movements are usually recognised by the community, using these terms.

Arabesque

Arabesque is traveling step with a pivot on one foot and an extended leg.

Backbend

Backbend refers to leaning backwards with the upper body.

Barrel turn

This is similar to the corkscrew turn, but with the arms extended (one upwards and the other one downwards).

Belly flutters

Belly flutters are quick contractions and releases of the upper abdominal muscles.

Belly pop

Belly pop in Raqs sharqi means a quick contraction and release of the lower abdominal muscles.

Camel

A camel is an isolated torso undulation like a wave, forward and back. In Egyptian style, it is confined mostly to the lower abdomen and lower back.

Chest circle

A chest circle is a circular movement of the ribcage, on the horizontal plane (but it can sometimes be on the vertical plane)

Chest drop

A chest drop is an isolated movement of the ribcage downwards.

Chest lift

This is an isolated movement of the ribcage upwards.

Choo choo shimmies


Choo choo shimmies are hip shimmies performed on relevé, while shuffling along the dance floor.

Corkscrew turn

A corkscrew turn is a turn performed on the spot, by crossing one foot in front of the other and pivoting on the heel of the foot that is in front.

Egyptian walk, or hagalla

These are when you step down on one foot at a time, whilst lowering the corresponding hip.

Floorwork

Floorwork refers to dancing movements done while sitting or lying on the floor.

Grapevine

Grapevine is the sideways travelling movement with sidesteps and steps across the support foot.

Head slide

A head slide is the horizontal sliding movement of the head side to side.

Heels stomp

A heels stomp is the tapping both heels flat to stress a downward accent in the music.

Hip bump

This is the thrusting movement of the hip to the side with emphasis.

Hip circle

A hip circle is the circular movement of the hips, on a horizontal plane.

Hip drop

A hip drop is the movement of one hip up to down, with emphasis on the downward motion. Only one hip moves and no weight is placed on the corresponding hip. The weight of the body rests solely on the leg corresponding to the static hip.

Hip horizontal figure of eight

The hip figure of eight horizontally, is the tracing a figure of eight, or infinity symbol pattern, with the hips on a horizontal plane.

Hip jewel

A hip jewel is half horizontal figures of eight of one hip, punctuated at the end by a small abdominal contraction, with a ripple effect.

Hip lift

This involves the movement of one hip at a time down to up, with emphasis on the upward motion.

Hip shimmies

These are tha same as hip vibrations.

Hip slide

A hip slide is the horizontal sliding movement of the hips side to side.

Hip tak

A hip tak is a small and sharp hip movement creating an accent, similar to a hip bump.

Hip twist

This involves moving one hip forward and the other back, on a horizontal plane.

Hip vertical figure of 8

This is the tracing a figure of eight, or infinity symbol pattern, with the hips on a vertical plane, going inwards, towards the centre of the body.

Layering

Layering in Raqs sharqi is the performing two movements of the same part of the body at the same time. For example, a hip figure of eight while shimming the hips; little hip drops while doing a horizontal hip figure of eight.

Maya

Maya is like a hip vertical figure of eight, but with the hips moving outwards, away from the centre of the body.

Pelvic lift and drop

A pelvic lift and drop is an isolated movement of the pelvis upwards and the downward, with the accent on the down movement.

Pelvic tilt with weight transfer

This involves tilting the pelvis, with weight transfer between one leg positioned in front and the other leg that is slightly back.

Relevé (or demi-pointe)

This is a movement in which the dancer rises on the tips of the toes.

Scissor step

A scissor step is stepping with the same foot forward and back, while the other footsteps on the spot.

Shoulder rolls

Shoulder rools are alternating rolling movements of the shoulders.

Shoulder shimmies

Shoulder shimmies are the vibration of the shoulders, achieved by moving them in quick alternation back and forward.

Snake arms

These involve moving the arm joints in smooths succession from the shoulder to elbow and wrist, with a wave or snake-like effect.

Soheir Zaki hip drop

This is the movement of one hip at a time up to down, with emphasis on the downward motion. The hips move in succession, one at a time and the dancer stands on tiptoes.

Travelling steps

Travelling steps are steps that allow the dancer to move around the dance floor.

Further Terminology

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Hi - I'm Dr Valeria Lo Iacono and I am a dance researcher with a PhD in dance as a form of living heritage. I also teach belly dance and love to travel to discover new dances around the world. I have worked also as an academic and in the UK and in Korea. Thank you for visiting my site.