Posted on 11/03/2018 by siteadmin

Variety is the Spice of Life! Cross-Training for Belly dance  

Variety is the Spice of Life! Cross-Training for Belly dance  

By Gwen Booth, JWAAD Master Teacher,

Many dancers use cross-training to help get the most from their dancing: it’s certainly helped me, and it could help you too!

What is cross-training? For a dancer, it tends to mean using other forms of exercise (or movement) to help develop fitness and strength, which in turn helps enhance the dancing.

Dancers use different types of cross-training for different purposes – they might use running, swimming, cycling or a rowing machine to develop aerobic fitness. (Surprisingly, a lot of dance classes don’t really develop this kind of fitness much, because we spend a good bit of time in class learning new things slowly and carefully, and listening to the teacher’s explanations and comments between exercises). Dancers also use pilates, weights, exercise with resistance bands, or barre classes to develop muscle strength, or yoga for flexibility. But while ‘exercise’ cross- training can be really useful, training using other types of dance class can be really valuable too. I really enjoy the differences between dance forms: they can have a focus on different parts of the body, different ways of moving which rely more on different muscles, different cultural background, different music and different ways of using the music too. All these things can help to inspire and improve your bellydance.

How can I use it? If you find that an exercise really helps you, once you’ve really got the hang of it in its original context, why not experiment with working aspects of it into your belly dance practice?

Going to a bellydance event with the idea of taking some classes on technique can also be a really helpful way to pick up exercises and concepts that have made their way into belly dance through cross-training. I find that technique classes are often the place where cross-training influences get broken down and explained most fully (whether they’re strengthening exercises or dance techniques from other styles). If you’re looking to give your training a boost in this way, why not give the early morning classes at JWAAD Summer School a try?

The different influences on teachers’ classes that come out of their experiences of other dance and exercise forms can be really varied. For me, my ideas and those of other teachers I study with come together to help develop my bellydance and keep providing an endless stream of fun challenges. Training with elements from Jazz and Ballet has really moved my technique on in recent years, and is opening up new movement possibilities too. My study in the Suhaila Salimpour bellydance format also includes quite a few of these elements, and I feel much stronger and quite a bit bendier as a result, which has to be a good thing! If you’d like to see me, and a host of other dancers putting our Salimpour training into action, don’t miss the 50th Anniversary Bal Anat Tour, coming to the UK for one show only in London, April 6th Click here for details

Where to begin:

  • Is there a form of exercise that you know you enjoy? Could it be tailored to help your bellydance?
  • Is there a common theme to moves you find tricky? Could it be foot agility, balance, stamina, flexibility etc? What cross-training might help you with that?
  • Don’t give up if the first class you try doesn’t work for you. Maybe try a different teacher, or a different way to target similar results…
  • Try to pick something that can challenge you, but still ‘suits’ your body (running really isn’t my cup of tea, but I love a nice swim…)
  • Even something gentle or occasional, like a bike ride with friends, can help put you in touch with muscles you never knew were there!
  • Give it a go, but don’t try to cram in so many activities that you’re exhausted.
  • Proper alignment is always important.


Cross-training has really helped to inspire and improve my bellydance. Why not see if it can do the same for you?


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