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Last addition: December 2008

Are all movements universally named in belly dance?
I’m learning belly dance called "Raks Araby". One of the moves is called "traveling Choo choos" And I have no idea what that is. Could you describe it?
Thank you
— submitted by Allison

Dear Allison,

First of all, the answer is 'No', all moves are not universally named.

Why? Because it's a very old folk art, done and cultivated by women rather than by a ballet academy. That’s not a bad thing just fundamentally different. I personally think it keeps the dance freer and more creative, less regimented. It stays flexible and is always changing. I like that. The dancers who have pursued this dance have been left to their own devices, learning, developing and passing the dance on. Once a teacher has spent time developing her format, she doesn’t want to let go of it to pay dues to another dancer who has done the same thing. There can be a bit of competition in deciding who gets to be Queen of the terminology. In reality I really don’t think it matters to the expression and enjoyment of the dance.

Words are not big enough or full enough to describe it. Also, because of its fast and recent international growth, language is a barrier. Body language is universal however. Seeing the dance with your eyes immediately provides you with holistic knowledge! It’s important to value this and not put so much stoke in the actual words when it comes to belly dance.

You will find there are many names for the same move. And dancers are always discovering new moves as they dance. The body is universal, so we can say all moves have been done before by someone. The idea that this is a Polynesian movement and this is a belly dance movement are artificial barriers in our heads. As Issadora Duncan once said “No movement is owned only rediscovered.” But they feel brand new when you the dancer happens upon them.

In regards to your question what is the "Traveling Choo choo"?
It’s definitely is a term used a lot by belly dancers. To me, a "traveling choo choo" could mean a hard pressing hip drop to the side that is moved like a locomotive. OR
it could be a "Power Shimmy" where the dancer is on the balls of the feet and the hips are moving fast up and down beneath the rib cage (like a child having a tantrum) and the dancer travels in any direction. She feels like she could say choo with each hip and get faster like a steam engine locomotive. This could be layered with other moves; swivels, figure eights, circles. . .

See how convoluted the words become? This brings me to a very important point that written words and books are not the best medium in which to study belly dance. DVD is the tool.

This dance is a feminine-based body language. Once you become versed in the language, you should be able to decipher it by seeing it. In this day-and-age of video cell phones, there isn't a need to write a dance down. Video recordings are omni present and DVD's are the best medium for referral to all movement arts. In the past, we didn’t have access to moving photographic imagery, but we do now. Things have certainly changed.

Personally I like to use names that describe the step in the name. So when I write it or speak it to my students, it paints a picture in their minds.
Example: "Big stroke, little stroke"
This means the motion is full length with a return and the second one of shorter length and return.

But then I give another direction to where this movement is mapped in the body, in the dance.
1. left hip, parallel to the floor , dynamical emphasis going backward, dancer traveling to her left.
  - or -
2. left hip, vertical plain, standing in place, dynamical emphasis down.
3. left hip, vertical plain, standing in place, dynamical emphasis up.

I explore the subject of belly dance as a Language of the Goddess in my Web Club #303. It’s part of the written material that goes the purchase of any of the DVD “Delilah’s Belly Dance Workshops” Vol I, II, or III.

— Delilah

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