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Shimmies - 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:


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

> Hi
> 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.
** Also, when I went to Egypt in 2001 the emphasis was on keeping the knee much straighter ( for Oriental Dance) than I had been accustomed to here in the USA, and have noticed that the trend continues as evident in current videos and workshop instruction in the modern Egyptian style. So, I am curious if we are just being exposed to this knee position during recent years or if this is how it has always been done. And if it is a new development in Oriental Dance, I would like to know when it started, and what is the injury track record.
It is a beautiful shimmy and in moderation I can't see long term injury. I believe it is good to have a broad repertoire of movements, but I do wonder about the long term effects of using only this technique, particularly if done with the knees straight.
>I am always thankful for new knowledge, particularly when if involves injury prevention and keeping those joints moving happily for a long, long time...

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.

Hi all!

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 soon.

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
Attempt to go walking around like that.

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.

Tarik Sultan



Egyptian shimmy/Vibration shimmy/Glute shimmy : knees slightly bent with a shimmy generated by glutes and thighs tensening.

Lebanese shimmy/Knee shimmy/straight legged shimmy: legs straightened, feet flat on floor. each knee bends forward then back to origional position individually. (almost as though running with straight legs, but not lifting feet up off the floor.)

Turkish shimmy/ vertical shimmy: knees slightly bent, lift Right hip up, keeping left hip at origional level or dipping it down, and then swapping movement so that Left hip is lifted up, keeping left hip at origional level or dipping it down

Saaidi shimmy/ 'The Washing Machine': Feet flat on floor, twist waist to left so that left hip is diagonally in front and right hip is diagonally behind. then do the opposite motion so that Right hip is diagonally in front and left hip is diagonally behind.

chest shimmy: Repeating step above, but with shoulders rather then Hips.

Forward One legged shimmy/pronounced shimmy : weight on one leg [Leg A], other leg is on ball of foot out on front [Leg B] (the stance needed to do a hip drop) Using ball of foot on leg B, generate a small Egyptian shimmy/Vibration shimmy/Glute shimmy.

Back one legged shimmy
: same position as above, but generate a Lebanese shimmy/Knee shimmy/straight legged shimmy with Leg A.

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).

One-cheek shimmy: Rapid glute squeezes/releases on one side.


These can all be done with weight on one leg or evenly distributed.

1. Classical Egyptian Shimmy: Controlled and created through the obliques - Can be done with emphasis on up or down

2. Modern Egyptian Shimmy: Controlled and created by moving the knee/using the legs - Can be done with emphasis on up or down

3. Suhaila Shimmy: Controlled and created with the glutes - Can be done with emphasis on up or down

4. Tunisian Shimmy: Twisting or Washing Machine shimmy

5. Ghawazee shimmy: Hips on each side alternating in sets of up/down/out or out/up/down (variation on 3/4)

6. Freeze shimmy: Created by bouncing through the heels

7. Side to Side shimmy: Hips go out to sides rather than up and down

8. Choo-Choo shimmy: Created by tiny steps with the feet

9. Hagallah shimmy: 3/4 shimmy variation with twist inward and over on the 1

10. 3/4 shimmy: Each hip either up/down/up or down/up/down (can be done with 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 from hips)

11. 2/4 shimmy: Hips alternate in groups of up/up or down/down (can be done with 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 from hips)

12. Turkish shimmy: Pelvic drop shimmy

13. Forward/back shimmy: pelvis forward and back with no tilting

***Upper Body***

1. Shoulder shimmy: Forward and back motion of the shoulders (can be done in groups such as 5, 10 , 11 from hips)

2. Chest shimmy: Tightened and lifted rib cage makes twisting motion


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.

Great lists of shimmies here.
I haven't seen what i learned as "shimmy number 4" - it is initiated with the multifidus mucles in the lower back. Mona Said and Shoo Shoo Amin were masters of it. I've seen Nagwa do it on one or two videos.
It's really difficult to get right as it's a lengthening of the lower back, or straightening the lower back towards the back (while keeping pubic bone essentially centered) to create a front/back shimmy.
Referencing the picture- you are rocking the top crest of the ilium back while keeping the pubis centered and essentially still.
When done incorrectly (initiating with the rectus abdominus will bring the pubic bone up and forward and initiating with the glutes will thrust the pubic bone forward), it looks really lewd. There's info on it here:
Yasmin does it a couple times on here:
at about 3:03 and 6:07


African Shimmy: Up and down (simultaneous) vertical shimmy on the Torso.
When I do African Shimmy, it is my pecs dropping up and down fast, while my lower torso (hips and abdomen) come up to meet them at the same pace. So pecs drop, abs and company go up. Release. Repeat to your delight (I wouldn't recommend more than 10 repetitions.)
There is kinetic energy to push them into place, but you do an instant release so that they fall back to normal relaxed position.

Tthe move doesn't come from the knees. They may be peripherally involved, but this is an upper body move. Yasmina does that move, and it iooks similar, except my way is more isolated to the torso. Hers sends chest and abs shooting downward at the same time and upward at the same time. Mine had defiinite opposition in movements.