How to do the shimmy?


New member
Hi everyone, My name is Jasmine. Im a college student who has been doing belly dance for about 2 weeks now. Ive been obsessivley learning move after move. I joined a bellydance club at my school, however the teaching there is subpar (student driven) so I just watch youtube videos.

Ive been having a very difficult time with the shimmy. The type I'm learning uses the knees a lot, where the belly moves side to side. I was able to do it when I first attempted it. When I attempted it again I couldn't get it the same. Now when I it, I can only hold it for like 15 seconds and its very strenuous on my legs and knees. Its really easy for me to wiggles my booty without any stress on my body, and its pretty much the same movement of the knees. When I try to shift that momentum forward to my stomach it doesnt work right. Ive read that the shimmy is supposed to be a relaxing move, but when I do it my legs and knees get really really tight. It doesnt help that I learned how to twerk and wiggle etc. way before this and Im really good at those moves. Im sure there is a subtle difference to make the rapid shake move from the butt to the stomach.

Does anyone have any tips/suggestions?

Also any tips on isolating the lower abs from the upper. I'm working on making my belly roll more crisp. I can completley take in my upper abs while pushing out my lowers, but stopping from engaging my upper abs when im trying to suck in my lower abs is more difficult. Any suggestions to engage parts of the abs seperatly ?


"The Veiled Male"
Sounds like what my teacher calls the "Egyptian shimmy". For *me*, its the hardest of all of them, and after 19 years I still have problems with it. I generally use an oblique driven shimmy - far easier for *me*. But someone who knows more about this than I do should chime in shortly...


Active member
I'm also not entirely sure what you are trying to do with your shimmying. Do you have a video clip you could link so we know what you are aiming for? There are different types of shimmies, moves where shimmies are layered with other moves, and occasionally teachers who unintentionally propagate misunderstandings, so it's hard to know what advice is best.

Having said that, the best drill for building the "modern Egyptian" (AKA "knee-driven," "straight-leg," etc.) shimmy is where you sit on the floor with your back straight and legs in front, and you just alternatingly raise and lower your knees in time to some steady music. Sitting down helps build the muscle memory to produce even timing, because it keeps the movement isolated where it belongs (the move can't carelessly drift upward), it prevents hyperextension (the floor keeps your knees from going too far back), and it makes loss of timing control more obvious (you can hear and feel whether you are slapping the floor regularly).

Start trying for 30 good seconds and work up to longer. Drop to half speed or pause a few measures when you feel yourself losing the beat or tensing up. Keep your upper body relaxed and don't forget to breathe.

This is one of those occasions where it is not the end of the world to practice to Western music, but there are plenty of ME pop and folk songs that fit the bill. The important thing is that the song has a solid, consistent, driving rhythm. It is better to practice being slow and accurate (on beat, not favoring one side over the other) than being fast and sloppy. I'll also add that as you get confident with the drill, you should try practicing to songs with (even slightly) different tempos. Not only does this prevent your shimmmy from "getting stuck at one speed," but research indicates it provides better learning.

(This drilling posture is also good if you want to learn the earthquake shimmy, where your knees move together instead of alternating. The earthquake shimmy is considerably less common, but some dancers incorporate it. I'm not a Salimpour person, but I believe their school of technique has its own variations of shimmies and seated shimmy drills with glute squeezes.)

Personally, I find I have better control isolating my upper and lower abs when seated, but ab work is not one of my specialties. Have you checked out Shira's page?

Finally, let me put in a sincere plug for improving your learning circumstances, whether that involves finding an in-person teacher, scheduling a few private lessons in another town, or doing some interactive Skype work with a respected teacher. There is no substitute for personal feedback on your technique, especially when you are starting out.

Your enthusiasm is admirable (and we've all been that beginner), but the problem with being a novice is that you don't know what you don't know. It is much better to correct technique misconceptions early, rather than after months or years of practice.

If you are basically just picking and choosing what you learn from YouTube tutorials, you may be missing wide swaths of important information about dance stylizations, music, and cultural placement. These dances represent the histories and traditions of multiple ethnic groups, where lack of sufficient information raises all sorts of negative possibilities--anything from innocent misconceptions to offensive misappropriations. (We've all also been that beginner with at least one naive mistake we shudder to remember.)

To belly dance well requires amassing more information than the casual observer would ever dream. You really do need more support and mentoring than hanging out with other novices.
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Lots of great advice here already.
As for practicing lower/upper abs, do it while lying on your back. Try to relax in one part when the other part is working.
And then don't forget to breath. When you get the hang of it, try to breath normally and not letting the ab work get in the way.

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
First of all, it takes time and practice to be able to hold an Egyptian shimmy for a long time. Secondly, if your legs and knees start to hurt, it's possible that you are locking your knees before you loosen them again. Make sure to straighten your legs but don't lock the knees.


Well-known member
Lots of great advice here already.
As for practicing lower/upper abs, do it while lying on your back. Try to relax in one part when the other part is working.
And then don't forget to breath. When you get the hang of it, try to breath normally and not letting the ab work get in the way.
Also resistance can help when you are new at working with stomach muscles. Put a couple of heavy books on your stomach and practice lifting and dropping them as you try to roll. The weight will help you feel which muscles you are using better and give you a better idea of just how much you are actually doing.