The movement which we call the Figure Eight is smooth, sensual, serpentine and perhaps the most popular and most accessible of all slower movements in the oriental dance repertoire. Because this movement focuses primarily on the pelvis and hips, we must keep the ribcage and shoulders motionless by using isometric contractions of our upper and mid-back, as well as our shoulder blade muscles. This type of contraction will gently and safely strengthen these muscles, which play an extremely important role in maintaining an elegant, upright posture by preventing round shoulders and a slumping chest.
MAYAS OR FIGURE 8’S
Horizontal Hip Figure 8- Back-To-Forward Version
The horizontal figure 8 is also called a forward & back or hip-twisting figure 8 in belly dance. Standing in a comfortable basic stance, pretend that a large figure 8 is painted on the floor and you are standing in the middle of it, with one circle of the 8 to your right side and the other circle to your left side. Isolate your hips and twist your right hip back, slide it out to the side and twist it forward. This puts you in position to repeat the belly dance move on your left side – the left hip is now twisted back, and you can slide out to the side, and twist it forward. When you complete the belly dance movement on one hip, it automatically positions the other hip to repeat the movement so that you can continuously flow from one hip to the other in a fluid manner. Keep your hips level to the ground as you trace your figure 8. It’s also important to keep the legs and knees relaxed so that your hips have freedom of movement.
Horizontal Hip Figure 8 – Forward-To-Back
For a forward-to-back version, you can reverse the direction of your figure 8. Isolate your hips and twist your right hip forward, slide out to the side and twist it back. Repeat on your left hip which is now twisted forward, by sliding it out to the side, and twisting backward. Continue from one hip to the other, making a fluid figure 8.
Vertical Hip Figure 8 – Down-To-Up Version
The vertical figure 8 is also called an up & down figure 8. To do the down-to-up version of the vertical figure 8, pretend that you are facing a wall with an infinity symbol painted on it. It looks like a figure 8 lying on its’ side with one loop of the 8 to the right and the other loop to the left. Assume the basic belly dance stance and push your right hip down, slide it out to the side, lift it up, and then pull it back to its starting point in your centered basic stance. Repeat with the left hip. Push the left hip down, slide it out to the side, lift it up, and bring it back to center. The legs and knees will be pulled up and down with this move, so keep them flexible. Your feet will also be pulled up and down, with your heels coming up off the floor. Let your heel lift up as the hip on that side of the body lifts up. As the hip rolls downward, the heel drops flat to the ground. The same thing repeats on the other side of the body. Make sure you do not twist your hips in a vertical figure 8; instead your hips will face forward at all times. Practice until the movement flows gracefully from one side to the other.
Vertical Hip Figure 8 – Up-To-Down Version
For the up-to-down version of the vertical hip figure 8 (sometimes called a ‘Maya’ figure 8), you can reverse the direction of your hip move. Your hips will now start by lifting up, sliding out to the side, dropping down, and going back to center and repeating smoothly on the other side. It is possible to do this movement with the feet flat at all times. Rather than allowing the heels to lift up, keeping the feet flat is more difficult for many bellydancers and forces you to lower your center of gravity by bending your knees more and to use the upper leg and lower torso muscles more deeply.
Don’t forget to add a Coin Hip Belt for volumizing moves!