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Written instructions online are certainly *not* an adequate replacement for a good, knowledgeable teacher, who can correct you when you are not doing a move properly and could thereby risk hurting yourself, and who will make sure you warm up correctly and cool down afterwards.



Isolation is perhaps the most obvious Hallmark of all the Arabic dance forms- moving one part of the body, without it affecting the rest of the body, which is kept still (or is performing a different move).


Almost all the basic hip & torso moves, even at Beginner level, involve isolation of parts of the body- when you do a simple hip rotation or horizontal figure 8, your head and shoulders are supposed to stay in the same place. When you do a shoulder shimmy, you are keeping all the movement to the upper torso, so the shiver remains in your shoulders, and doesn't travel out into your arms & hands, or down into your hips.


In my Warm-Up, before we have even started dancing, we start to practise these Isolations, with ribcage slides and circles, and hip slides and rotations.


The essence of Isolation lies in being able to use the "synergist" muscles- the muscles that hold your body in place, the muscles that stop a move from waggling about. As you do a hip slide, synergists in your thoracic area keep your shoulders & head in the same place, by holding the ribcage in position, and synergists in the thighs keep the move extended.


Here are a few aids to improving your isolation for you to try:


  • First, give your isolations room. Lift your ribcage, focussing the lift in the back rather than just the front. This will help with both upper body & lower body isolations.  Any hip isolation and any ribcage isolation will benefit from this lift.

  • Second, keep your supporting leg (or both legs if the move is even-sided) slightly bent. This will act as a shock absorber, as far as any hip moves are concerned. It shouldn't be a big deep bend like a skier's stance, but a softness in the knees, that will cushion the movements.

  • Third, for upper body isolations, try turning your toes in. This is not ideal dance posture- it's not pretty & it's not readily sustainable. But for practice purposes, it can be helpful- it locks the hips in position. The crucial thing is to turn the toes in from the top of the leg, from the hips- knocking your knees on their own really isn't going to do you any good!  So rotate the whole leg right from the hip joint.  Once you have done plenty of practice, and your brain has learned the right neural firing sequence to move the body in the right way, once the muscles have developed the memory of how to get the Isolation working, then you won't need this artificial aid any more.

  • Fourth, think about which bit of the body you are trying to move. With a ribcage slide, visualise moving the base of the ribcage; with a head slide, visualise moving the jawbones; for a hip movement you may need to think about moving the hip-bones, or possibly your sitting bones.

  • Fifth, when you are working on a new isolation (or trying to perfect an existing one), start the move slowly and keep it small. Big fast moves are much harder to keep under control than small slow ones.

  • Last but not least, start your Warm Up before practising any Isolations- you need muscles that will be able to respond easily, and joints that are well-prepared.  Don't try any of this cold.  In my warm up routine, we don't start these Isolations until the torso has had the chance to mobilise (using the shoulder rolls, moves that involve the whole torso) and the blood has started pumping around the body a bit quicker.



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Updated 24th January 2010