Basic Centering Techniques
Simple Steps to
"For Beginners" (ZAGHAREET! (Jan/Feb
by Anthea Kawakib Poole
Last time we looked at my Basic Pose and
simple variations (changes of direction and body position),
what transitions are, and also explored a couple of tempos. In
this issue I want to get even more “basic” - although these
concepts can help a dancer at any skill level.
I’ve always said that beginner level is
the hardest class to teach. It’s so sad that dancers who
want to start teaching often don’t know this. Have you ever
heard a dancer say that they’re thinking of starting a belly
dance class, because even though they’re not that advanced
themselves, “at least they can teach beginners”?
Oh dear! Because even with the most skillful of teachers,
beginners are problematical.
A teacher wants to share the joy of belly
dance, that’s why she teaches (or at least, we hope that is
her noble notion....). But how can a teacher share joy
with someone who is tense, fearful, and/or distracted?
So I want to give you this formula to use when you go to class
to make it easy for you to learn and accept what your teacher
is trying to give you.
A Four-Step Process to Relax in the Moment
I’ve found four key concepts to keep
in mind when in a stressful learning or performing situation.
Here’s an acronym to help you remember this
mantra: RBCB (Are-Be-See-Be!):
- The first is to relax - or
release if you prefer - nothing else will work
without it. Literally FEEL your muscles relax into their
natural position, where they can do their job holding your
body together with the least amount of stress. So relax, or
release - and when you move, it will be
graceful, because movement without stress IS grace.
- When you relax or release, it then
becomes easier to breathe. If you’re in a
“stressful situation” (like class or before performing) you
need more oxygen than usual. You also need to get rid of
“used up air” - carbon dioxide - so deep breathing
is what we’re talking about, to completely refresh your
lungs. This is especially important when using your brain
- A deep breathe goes all the way down to
move your belly. That will then help you remember to contact
your center - and isn’t “the center” always
where it’s at (...“shopping center”, the “center of
attention”, “the center of the universe”, etc.)? You may not
be giving your center the respect and attention it deserves!
It’s inside your torso below your belly button: the spinal
cord has opened up into a bundle of nerves hanging
down like a “horse’s tail”; scientists have found the
“second brain” here (an area of brain nerves inside the
digestive tract); where your center of balance
settles when your knees are softly bent. And when you think
of this center you become actively involved in the neural
messages going in and coming out of it - what you put in
there, is what comes out into the rest of your body and
mind. If you are consciously relaxing, then “good” vibes
(neural messages) go in and stimulate good effects
throughout your body.
- After centering yourself, then balance
the rest of your body, just like building blocks one on top
of the other: starting with good contact on the floor, up
through your legs, trunk, shoulders, neck and head. Don’t
neglect your feet - I see so many people with weak or
inefficient foot use in class. I guess everyday life doesn’t
give the foot a good workout--they’re often in tight shoes,
walking or standing on hard floors.... ouch! But obviously,
your balance starts on the ground, so start considering your
These four ingredients taken together are truly
a magic formula - magic because it works without us knowing
exactly how, yet the results are so amazing!
What it Really Means to Share the Joy of
When you’re in class, dancing, or getting
ready to perform, check yourself - it’s YOUR body, and
it’s YOUR responsibility. Keep doing it, and “checking in”
will become a habit. You’ll feel yourself relax, breathe,
center, and balance... each one naturally leads to the next.
The way I do RBCB is Relax (inward breath),
Breathe (exhale), Center (feel my weight sinking into my
hips), and Balance (aligning my upper body in relation to my
Center). It all happens within one deep in-and-out breath.
It's automatic for me in belly dancing, and I'm trying to make
it a habit when horse riding, because I'm a beginner and need
Being actively involved like this also
helps keep you from spiraling down into negative thoughts, or
getting distracted with someone else’s negative energy, or
otherwise “stalling” your energy and focus. On the plus side,
others may actually benefit from being around you too, and the
good feelings multiply exponentially.
“RBCB”! You’ll feel better! Your teacher will
find you easy to teach! You’ll enjoy class (or performing) so
much more! Yes - this is how you share “the joy of belly