Feet and legs… Don’t keep them separated!
When I teach basic bellydance posture, I always tell my students to keep their feet close and thighs together. I know that some instructors allow the feet to be a little wider apart, maybe five inches or more, but I would rather see dancers with their feet and thighs close. I also try very hard to keep students aware of their feet, pointing them to keep the leg lines long and beautiful. Why?
Well, for one thing, it’s better for body alignment, and keeping the feet close together underneath the body keeps the center of gravity focused in one place, rather than two. It’s a lot easier to dance and keep your balance if the feet and thighs are together. Really.
For another thing, keeping the feet together looks more elegant, poised, polished, and dancerly than keeping them wide. If the thighs are open, it also gives off a less modest appearance, and belly dance is, at least in its more Middle Eastern forms, an inherently modest dance. Pointing the toes also finishes the line of the leg, whether or not the dancer is bare foot, in shoes, or in boots. And for tribal and fusion dancers, more and more we’re wearing costuming that reveals the feet and sometimes even the thighs, and if the legs aren’t together and if the feet aren’t pointed and elegant, the whole performance can fall apart and just look bad. A dancer could be performing beautiful torso isolations with a radiant smile, but if her feet aren’t poised, and the thighs are apart, the feet can distract from the whole presentation.
This revealing of feet and legs seems mostly to be happening in troupes trying the tucked-up skirts, striped tights, and boots like the Indigo has been wearing over the past few years. I’ve seen dancers perform can-can inspired kicks with loose feet, and frankly, it looks unprofessional, unpolished, and lazy. I’ve seen dancers in skirts tucked up in the front with their legs wide apart, nearly in a squatty position, performing interior hip circles, and other hip work that looks raunchy and overtly sexual when the legs are apart. I’ve also seen dancers in the “garter shorts” style of costuming that also have been dancing with little awareness of what their feet and legs are doing, and those costumes are even more revealing than the skirts and tights inspired by the Indigo.
If we bellydancers are to present to the general public that we’re professionals, that we’re not dancing to be sexual, that we’re just as respectable as a ballet or modern dancer, then we need to pay attention to what our feet and legs are doing. Sure, you can get away with your feet a little bit wider apart if you’re wearing a classical American Tribal Style 20-yard skirt with pantaloons underneath because chances are, your audience isn’t even going to see your feet. However, even underneath a skirt and pantaloons, the feet should always be pretty and not an afterthought. The thighs should be close, which brings an elegant line to the whole body. And the upper body should be lifted, opening up the solar plexus, heart center, and collarbones. I would like to see every tribal and fusion dancer pay more attention to their lower bodies, and how that affects the entire performance. The legs and feet are our foundations, what connect us to the ground and the stage. Bellydance, while it is about isolations in the torso, should never neglect the legs and feet.