- To Use the Knees or Not
There was a very interesting discussion on the MED List about whether or not to use the knees when you are shimmying. I have reproduced the comments here to present both sides of the arguement. The LAST comment is the one I believe to be correct. I DO NOT teach shimmies using the knees - but other teachers at Joy of Motion do. It depends on where the style comes from in the Middle East and the teacher. It is my personal opinion that the straight legged knee shimmy is an invention of Raqia Hassan's. Before she started teaching in Egypt no one else was doing this movement. Note all the references to her. THE SHIMMIES I TEACH ARE:
#1 - TWISTING HIPS
Please note: I have removed all the names of the people who posted (except the last) to protect their privacy. If you are a member of this List Serve you will already have read these comments. I think it is important to be informed about all the pros and cons of any issue.
Med List Shimmy Discussion
> I never knew it was considered a "big no-no". My current teacher taught it to the class, and has never said it was bad.
> >Hello all!
After doing the fifth beginning student review in two weeks, where we talked about and reviewed everything that we'd done for the term, it suddenly occurred to me that I had been passing on something I'd heard and read, without knowing exactly why.(Yes, I probably do this daily, but this was specific.:-))
Excuse the excessive wordiness of the next bit.
(No pictures=using 1000 words :-) We covered basic "horizontal" shimmy movements: the Up Down Up (or hips alternate up and up - shimmy #2), The Down Up
Down (shimmy #3), and the Out In Out (shimmy #4). All of these movements originate from the core muscles and the hamstrings, with relaxed knees, neutral pelvis, etc. I stated that although your knees move WITH the movement, they don't originate the movement.
I remember reading on the MED net about the knee-based, Egyptian-style shimmy (and I've seen Raqia Hassan do it and identify it as knee originated on a few videos- ), and how it was a big no-no for physical reasons, historical reasons, and a bevy of other reasons.
Can anyone tell me why? Does it depend on HOW you do it? Does it
just encourage not using the core muscles in favor of the knees?
Currently there are several well known instructors who instruct the
knee initiated method as "the" way to shimmy - recently
I attended workshops with Aziza and Hadia, for example who use this
approach. I don't know if they teach the other method also, but in
the workshops we learned the knee Fwd/bwd technique.
I was planning to stay out of the "shimmy debate" but I cannot hold back any longer. I teach many different types of shimmies. The Egyptian "knee" shimmy is only one of the ones I teach along with Earthquake, American hip, 3/4, Haghalla, Gawazee, Egyptian, Egyptian with a freeze, and so on and so on. With Egyptian I talk about not hyperextending or "locking out" which can hurt the knees. But, ultimately, we all have different bodies. The Egyptian Shimmy might be bad for one persons knees and OK for another. I know Suhaila Salimpur discourages it based on research, I believe, with doctors. And, I HIGHLY respect her. But, I have always been very leery of doctors. We are all individual. For instance, there is an entire movement in India (and has been for decades) that "locking out" the knees is OK, and even beneficial if a person is properly warmed up. "Bikram" of Bikrams Yoga is one person who encourages this is yoga practice. Many do. But, tell this to most Middle Eastern Dance teachers and you will have a mighty fight on your hands. If the Egyptian "knee" shimmy causes injury, well so does running, biking, skiing, and ANYTHING where there is a consistant, "rote" movement of the knees. If we as teachers concentrate on proper posture and common sense, I think that the Egyptian "knee" shimmy will not be an issue in terms of injury.
Finally, I dont know when this shimmy started. Perhaps some of the
great Egyptian dancers like Sahra Saeeda or Shareen El Safy know.
I HAVE seen dancers become "straighter" and less bent in
the knees in the last year or so while doing this shimmy. Especially
here in the States.
I am not an expert, but I can't help but get involved in this. This
past summer I took two days of workshops with Raqia Hassan. She teaches
the strait legged, knee shimmy that is being discussed. She explained
that it is important to keep the knees soft even though the leg is
straighter than the shimmy we are use to. She also said this type
of shimmy is easy to layer with just about any hip move when you get
use to it and she does layer it with just about any hip movement in
her choreography. So I am not sure it is fair to say that it can't
be layered with other movements. I am nearly hopeless at layering
and I was able to layer this shimmy with several other moves as it
is very relaxed and easy to forget you are doing it. That said I also
like the bent knee hip shimmy and do not plan on abandoning it anytime
Many people have asked me about this and are very confused because instinctively and correctly they feel that it can be quite injurious, but they see one or two dancers in Egypt doing it and, as a result a few are now teaching it here.
Just because somebody over there does something does not automatically mean it is correct. They do not study dance there the way we do, let alone Anatomy and Kinesiology and just like here, not all teachers have correct technique in everything.
Some can be wonderful teachers for most things, but have a problem with a movement or two, because too often they try to mix other disciplines into Oriental technique to be innovative and sometimes that can be bad for the dancer physically.
Dancing with straight knees is a recent thing and personally I don't teach it for several reasons:
1. The knees are meant to be flexed. Many career-ending injuries in ballet and gymnastics are because the doer failed to flex the knees properly for cushioning;
Oriental dance is based on the natural movements of the body. When the weight of the hips shifts from one side to the other, the knee joints are engaged. This is what happens naturally when we walk, no one walks with straight knees, if they are walking properly, do they?
I would think the potential of injury is apparent to anyone who'd
2. I'm sorry, but the tight jiggle produced from this movement looks stiff and stifled when compared to the naturally relaxed movement of the hips in the anatomically correct movement.
To understand what I'm talking about, look at videos of some of the older great dancers like Suhair Zaki, Fifi Abdo, Hanan, Shushu Amin, Nabawia Mustafa, etc and then compare that with the tight, stiff movement that a few of the newer dancers are currently using.
Which seems more organic, flows easier, more accurately expresses the music and which seems stifled?
In order to avoid injury, knees are relaxed, as in a slight sitting position in order to allow the weight of the hips to shift from side to side whether initiating from the hips themselves, or the muscles of the legs.
Egyptian shimmy/Vibration shimmy/Glute shimmy : knees slightly bent with a shimmy generated by glutes and thighs tensening.
Brasilian samba move, tiny hip circles done very fast. (difficult too!)Brasilian samba move, tiny hip circles done very fast. (difficult too!)
Freeze shimmy: Done by tensing all the muscles in the legs so you end up with a small vibration (works well with belly rolls).
I think of double hips / 3/4 shimmies (up or down or twist or up and over) as separate from shimmies. I totally see how they look like shimmies, so it makes sense. It just feels very different for me.
African Shimmy: Up and down (simultaneous) vertical shimmy on the Torso.