topic posted Tue, January 16, 2007 - 5:51 AM by  Margaret
My beginners classes, and even some of the intermediates are having trouble with body undulations. I' ve tried explaining it a number of ways, and undulated until I was sore to try and show them but some are still not getting it. The problem seems to be that they all look and feel stiff...they can't seem to get the flexibility in the back to make the move look snakelike and supple. I don't know if they just haven't built up the flexibility in the muscles enough to do it or what the problem is.
Any hints or tips on helping them?
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  • Re: undulations

    Tue, January 16, 2007 - 6:19 AM
    One way my teacher taught us and which I now use to is to have the students line up against a wall with their backs to it about two inches away from it. As they do each part of the undulation, I have them place that part of their back against the wall. So, as they lift the chest and pull it back, their shoulder blades will touch the wall, then mid-back as they pull back on their upper abdomen, then their lower back as they pull back on their lower abs. Then have them stand up straight, moving each part of the body away from the wall in the same order.
    • Re: undulations

      Tue, January 16, 2007 - 6:34 AM
      I've used Diana's approach for some people, too. It helps.

      There are a couple of possibilities - one, they're trying to make the movement too large for them (at least for where they are so far) and that's creating extra tension in shoulders, hips etc - making it choppier & harder to move. Making each section of the movement smaller may help.

      Another possibility is that they don't really understand what the movement should feel like, so they're actually trying something that's different from what you're telling them to do. One more challenging way to show them is to have them lie face down on the floor & use the undulation to travel forward. If you don't use hands and feet to propel you, it's virtually impossible to move this way and not engage the muscles in sequence properly. It's also not easy, so students may not want to do it.
  • Re: undulations

    Tue, January 16, 2007 - 7:36 AM
    I get a lot farther if I do this
    chest lift foward
    chest lift up
    chest back (or to neutral if they can't) / Pelvic tuck
    pelvic release
    I have tried the muscle isolations, the wall, lying on the floor, and this works the best..
  • Re: undulations

    Tue, January 16, 2007 - 8:33 AM
    I do not try teaching an undulation to the beginner classes. I, and most teachers I know, consider undulations to be intermediate work. Beginners need to learn the individual moves and 'perfect' them first, devlop core strength and flexibility. Once the student understands the individual components of an undulation, you can tell/show/teach them how to string them together first then smooth them out to form the undulation. It is a slow, step by step process.

    I tried all the methods already mentioned when I first learned undulations and found all but one helpful in a different way. (BTW: hated !!!! the floor thing. Only did that once, briefly. Too hard on the ribs and hip bones) The best method is to go slowly. Save undulations for the intermediate class and even then make sure that your intermediate students are well practiced and skilled at the individual components of an undulation.
    • Re: undulations

      Tue, January 16, 2007 - 10:10 AM
      I don't really teach beginners undulations but I DO teach isolations every lesson as drill. This gives them a chance to learn their "neutral" position as opposed to the chest lifted, & dropped position (same for pelvis) and to put it into their muscle memory for when we smooth it out into an actual undulation.
      I actually think that is the same thing Gailene said in different words. It's hard to verbalize body movement isn't it?
      • Re: undulations

        Tue, January 16, 2007 - 12:18 PM
        "hard to verbalize body movement "... Sooo true. That is why we learn things like dance and sport in an actual class. And yes, I think Elizabeth and I are saying the same thing.
    • Re: undulations

      Wed, January 17, 2007 - 4:36 AM
      I soooo agree with you! In my mind undulations are an intermediate move. Even then, most of my intermediates take a couple of months for the move to start looking like a decent undulation. I also drill basic isolations every class in both beginner and intermediate classes.

      Everyone has given good ideas and I've used most of them at one time or another with different students that are having trouble. All except the floor one. Interesting concept and I can see how it would work. I'll add that one to my stash of ideas. One thing I have noticed over the years, is that if the student will hang in there and keep working they will eventually get it. In 15 years of teaching, I've never had a student who trying not get undulations. :)

      Good Luck!
      • Re: undulations

        Wed, January 17, 2007 - 5:52 AM
        I agree that it's hard for beginners to get the coordination involved in undulations. I get them started right away with discovering and using their abs, and loosening up their upper bodies, so they'll be more prepared when I introduce undulations (and belly rolls) seriously at the advanced beginner level. Usually by the intermediate level, my students can do an undulation.

        I did have one advanced student who was a bit of a jock and did a lot of running. She had probs with undulations because she was a little stiff and needed more flexibility, so I suggested yoga. Well, the joke's on me -- she fell in love with yoga, has now been teaching it for several years, and has no more time for dance! :-/ I had my eye on her for my troupe... oh, well.

      • Re: undulations

        Fri, January 19, 2007 - 11:14 AM
        Hi everyone, I'm new here, I teach in Brighton and London in the UK.

        I sometimes suggest to students to put their hand on my tummy (nothing funny ;-)) when I undualte and feel what it feels like and then tell them to put their hand on their own tummy and try to create the same feeling. Many times it works.

        I do teach it to beginners, it's one of those moves that if you're not a natural will take time, practice and lots of repetition so why not start early.

        It's nice to be here.

        • Re: undulations

          Fri, January 19, 2007 - 12:04 PM
          I do the same thing with chest lifts. I have them put their hand between my shoulder blades and feel the muscles working as I do a couple of slow lifts. It seems to really help those who can't visualize from descriptions which muscles they're supposed to work.
      • Re: undulations

        Sun, January 21, 2007 - 4:27 PM
        I don't teach undulation at Beginner level either. What I DO do is get them ready for them. We do "The Bridge" from yoga. Lie on back with knees bent and feet flat on floor. Peel spine up VERY slowly and roll back down just as slowly. Draw their attention to the different muscles that are activated at each point of the roll. This helps them develop more flexibility in the spine and musicle awareness.

        Very similar to the wall roll-down but more effective on the lower-spine part of the movement IMO.
        • Re: undulations

          Sun, January 21, 2007 - 5:37 PM
          Mahin... I like this idea and can see how it would be very effective. Without the floor to hinder the movement students can be more focused on what muscles are doing what. I'm going to try it. Thank you
  • Re: undulations

    Wed, January 17, 2007 - 8:51 AM
    This was my first week back to teaching after the holiday break (a whole month). Last night I was observing the differences between the brand new beginners and those who have moved into the intermediate level (which is more of a beginners 2 level with my classes). The single biggest difference was muscle control/awareness and next was flexibility. It emphasized the reason for waiting to teach undulations until intermediate level.

    The new beginners have enough of a challenge distinguishing the difference between a hip lift and a drop.
    • Re: undulations

      Wed, January 17, 2007 - 10:17 AM
      Taking a similar cue from the poster of the wall undualtions technique-
      Put two students back to back and have the rool up and down one another's bodies. Let them start really big, telling them to make sure the other person can really feel it. Then each week, have them make it smaller, tighter and more muscular.
      • Re: undulations

        Wed, January 17, 2007 - 12:23 PM
        One way to show an undulation that I have had some good results with is to show an undulation from the front, the back, and both sides. Also describing what the muscles feel like when you are doing an undulation can help as well. Slow snake like music also helps.
        One piece of music that I love for ungulations is Simon Shaheen's Blue Flame , track # 8 Saraab.
  • Unsu...

    Re: undulations

    Wed, January 17, 2007 - 3:40 PM
    I absolutely love undulations and teach them from day one with all my students. With the introduction classes, I start them by laying on the floor and placing their hands on their upper and lower abs. Popcorn exercises: isolating back and forth between these two parts. I do this laying down so the spine stays long. Usually the upper abs are much easier for people to find as they tend to be much stronger than the lower. For those students that are having a difficult time finding their lower abs (and this is especially true with anyone who has had a c-section or any abdominal surgery), I have them do a lower ab strengthening exercise. Place the hands under the lower back for support. Extend the legs straight up to the ceiling. Keeping the legs vertical (no swinging), curl the tailbone under and lift the hips off the floor. The movement is very small and controled, but really works the lower abs. Once students can feel the muscle, they can isolate it.

    Once they have the isolation of the upper and lower abs (belly roll), I have them sit upright and find the upper back muscles (romboids, or add lats for a more tribal look). This contraction pulls the shoulder blades together lifting the chest forward. And then....

    Full undulations: upper back, upper abs, lower abs
    and reverse: lower abs, upper abs, upper back

    We practise our undulations sitting on the floor, so that we are aware of the spinal alignment (ie. hips do not rock forward and back). Creating the undulation with these muscle contractions keeps the spine long and support as well as creates a super gooey undulation.

    By week four or so, ALL of my students have these three contractions down. And are more aware of their posture and alignment (so so important for everyone).
    • Unsu...

      Re: undulations

      Thu, January 18, 2007 - 9:00 AM
      Aubre - Thank you for the amazing explanations and ideas. I plan to put these to good use right away!
  • Unsu...

    Re: undulations

    Fri, January 19, 2007 - 12:36 PM
    Related to this discussion in a round about way, I'm wondering if anyone has recommendations on good ways to learn the names of muscles and how to use them. I know I should take an anatomy and physiology class, but time and cash are limited at the moment.

    I've joined the tribe that talks about muscles and such for bellydance, but I'm wondering if there are other resources I could easily access. Can you recommend websites, books, particular muscles (or groups) on which I should concentrates, etc.?
    • Re: undulations

      Sat, January 20, 2007 - 7:24 AM

      The Anatomy Coloring Book!
      You can get it at just about any bookstore since it's used as a textbook.

      I also found a very inexpensive one from Dover Publications:

      Fun stuff there... if you're a bit geeky like me.

      • Re: undulations

        Sat, January 20, 2007 - 5:05 PM
        Hi Roya, I remember you from way back from the MEDlist!

        I agree, The Anatomy Coloring book is awesome. I found it it at Waldenbooks. It is one of those I am using for long term study. My kids have enjoyed it too when they want to learn about some part of the body.
  • Re: undulations

    Mon, January 22, 2007 - 7:50 AM
    I teach undulations the same way that I learned them from my very first teacher. I find that once the flexibility is there and the students are able to do chest lifts etc this way seems to work for them.

    Open a door and stand facing it's open edge. Hold on to the door knobs for support if you need it (make sure they are secure though). Touch the door edge with your chest, then arch back letting the edge roll down your body point by point from chest to stomach. The key here is the point by point awareness to help keep the undulation traveling down the body without skipping steps.

    I found that a door, the corner of a wall, and a support beam or pole work the best. Once they get down the large undulation, we work on keeping the hips level and solid and only undulating the upper body.
  • Re: undulations

    Tue, January 23, 2007 - 8:07 AM
    I do teach undulations to beginners, but it is near the end of my 8-week session with them. What I've found, is that camels, figure 8s, and other complex movements are more muscular (as opposed to skeletal movements where bones & joints help create the movement.)

    Skeletal movements appeal to our Western brains because we like rational, intellectual thought: "put peg A into slot B and you've built your bookcase." Muscular movements, however, are a little trickier because it is less about bones & joints, and more about activating sequences in our muscles. This is more intuitive, more of a "watch and do" kind of energy.

    Yes, you can break down an undulation, but what seems to work best is when the student has an image to work with: a snake, a dolphin (if you do a big undulation, leading with the nose.) What is best, in my opinion, is to encourage the students to be patient with themselves as they are attempting the undulations and to encourage them to rid themselves of the thought that they can't do it. I liked the comment about how the range of motion on beginners does not have to be very big - I often remind my students that I've been doing this dance for a while, so I have more flexibility just from sheer repetition.
    • Re: undulations

      Tue, January 23, 2007 - 9:03 AM
      Good point Magdalene. Thanks for bringing this up.
      One thing that worked for me and I encourage with students (not just for undulations) is visualization. I'm often asking students to close their eyes and visualize their bodies inside. Whether it be visualizing an entire move or just a particular muscle or muscle group. Belly Dance for me is very meditative, especially when I practice alone. I get out of my head and into my body and the music. I learned this technique while living in a yoga ashram for 6 weeks.
      A favourite visualization for undulations:
      Visualize a flexible tube running through the core of your torso from throat to groin and following the curve of your spine. In the tube are valves, spaced every inch, that will only open when they are perfectly horrizontal. Water starts running through the tube. In order for the water to get through you must cause a ripple to run from top to bottom to open each valve so the water can pass through smoothly. The ripple must be a smooth undulation and the tube must be kept taught.

      Hey, if it works for me it might work for others ;-)
      • Unsu...

        Re: undulations

        Tue, January 23, 2007 - 9:20 AM
        ohhh I like that visualization!!!

        You had me doing undulations in my cubicle!! lol

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