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The “Tuck It Under” Phenomenon 
by Vilia
(Valerie Cherry)

In recent years, I've noticed that many teachers of Oriental dance are emphasizing a necessity to tuck the rear end under to straighten the lower back, for good posture.  Regarding tucking and also, the subject of floor work on a dance chat site. I attempted to answer a student's question, but was unable to successfully submit my reply, due to a technical glitch; so I’d like to share the benefit of my own experience with everyone through the GIlded Serpent and perhaps, be lucky enough to reach that same student as well.

I have been belly dancing since 1976, and still perform occasionally.  During my prime dancing years, the part of the dance that we call "floor work," I considered my specialty.  Unfortunately, many dancers don’t seem too interested in doing it these days! I believe that they are missing out on a part of the dance show in which it’s permissible to become introspective and emotional, allowing the music to take you away. 

When performed well, the audience will become hushed and be transported to that “place” with the dancer.  They’ll appreciate not only the physical strength it takes to perform the movements, but the change in mood and depth of passion exhibited. 

I’m glad that there are teachers out there who are still teaching this part of the dance. However, this particular student’s teacher had emphasized a need to make the lower back touch the floor when in the post Turkish drop position.  My lower back never touched the floor, and never could have, in that position.  I'm sure her teacher was only trying to help her protect herself physically, but I prefer to think of the pelvis in more of a neutral position.  That is, the dancer should think of her navel pressing towards the floor. Even if it doesn’t make the lower back touch the floor, this will cause the stomach muscles to tighten, which takes pressure off of her lower back.   At the same time, her pelvis will neither be tucked, nor hyper-extended.  Backbends and positions such as the one in the above photo are examples of hyper-extension of the back. For protection when practicing, always compensate with a forward bend, such as the one demonstrated in this photo from

Personally, that post Turkish drop position did more to hurt my knees than my back.  I never dropped onto my knees; instead, I always broke the fall with my hands split seconds beforehand. However splaying one's feet out to the side has a tendency to "torque" the knees, and I'm paying for having done that now.  Yoga has a position (demonstrated in this picture from where the foot is to the side of the thigh, but the top of the foot remains on the floor, allowing the knees to remain in a more natural position.Yoga has a position where the foot is to the side of the thigh, but the top of the foot remains on the floor, allowing the knees to remain in a more natural position.  If I were to do my career over again, I would practice repositioning myself into that kind of more "joint friendly" posture as much as possible.

I believe that telling students to keep the pelvis tucked under when in a standing position can be confusing for them, too.  If you keep the pelvis tucked under, it squeezes the buttocks muscles. The range of movement for hip lifts and drops is reduced significantly, which is not good for Belly dance.  I’ve seen many awkward looking hip walks that result from attempting to walk, move the hips and maintain that “tucked under” posture, all at the same time.  So I’ve always taught my students to use the neutral position for that as well. I've found that strengthening the stomach muscles, or your dance core is the best protection for the lower back.  I have found also that Pilates is wonderful for teaching the neutral position that I recommend.

Some exercise routines require the hips to be tucked under to protect the back. The hips naturally tighten in ballet with the "turn out" required, and has less to do with posture than it does with enabling the execution of the kinds of movements and positions that ballet demands. Even Oriental dance involves a couple of movements where the hips are tucked under briefly, and when utilizing ballet movements within our dance, as many of us do, by all means, let's tighten the hips. But let's also give Oriental dance the respect it deserves, and not try changing it to Western standards in an attempt to make it more acceptable to other dance and exercise disciplines within our community. It's still possible to have good posture and protect the back without resorting to something that hinders one of the most important aspects of the dance - hip flexibility."

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