Talkin’ taxeem

The taxeem – a vertical figure-eight with the hips – is one of the first movements you learn when you step into an ATS® bellydance class, and it is a step that you will continue to work on, perfect, and deepen throughout your dance career.

And it just feels good.  I could taxeem for hours.  It loosens up my back and gets me in touch with my dantian or hara – the energetic center of the body, where some traditions believe vital energy originates.  It’s a great mindfulness meditation, and allows me to slow down my breathing and become more present in my body.  The slower you go, the more meditative the step becomes.

And you can do it anywhere. I’ve been known to taxeem while at my office job (I have a standing desk) or while brushing my teeth, or standing in line at the grocery store.

The magic of the taxeem is in the near-total weight shift that isn’t driven from your feet or knees, but rather from your core.  The “empty” hip (the down hip, which is on the unweighted leg) lifts with no help from the knees – it floats up. And once it’s floated to the top, the leg underneath it stabilizes and strengthens so that the other leg can empty out, and the other hip can release downward.

Catch that? The magic of the taxeem happens in three phases: the float, stabilizing the float, and releasing the opposite side.

(If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may see a pattern developing here – go have a look at my meditation on the shimmy if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

This is just like improv dance, right?  We need a stable structure or framework so we can release into it and just have fun. It’s relaxing to dance improvisationally within a structure – without the structure, it’s just flailing, and we develop (or at least I develop) anxiety about where we’re supposed to be and what we’re supposed to do in a group setting.  With the structure, the group enters into a shared agreement, and everyone feels safer.

Follow along with Sandi in this sweet taxeem drill.

A meditation on the shimmy

On the plane back from an amazing weekend at Cues and Tattoos, I was discussing the ATS® shimmy (also called walking shimmy) with Wendy Allen. (I love that woman.)

So many students don’t understand the ATS® shimmy.  They try to drive it with the upper body (which causes the ribcage to wiggle and tilt), or they try to over-control the movement, and wind up just vibrating. Or, they try to make the movement bigger than their bodies are ready for, and wind up looking inelegant and throwing their energy away.

And I realized: the ATS® shimmy is really about providing stability in one place so that you can experience freedom and release in another.  The more you try to control the shimmy, the more it becomes tight and contracted; but if you create stability in your upper body — specifically the upper abdominals and upper back — and just allow the hips to dangle and bounce, the shimmy comes naturally.  And the more you practice and loosen your joints and increase your flexibility, the larger it becomes.  And the more you walk with a little skip in your step and a freedom in your hips, the easier it becomes.

And so in life, right? We intentionally create stable structures in some areas of our lives (let’s say our jobs, or our relationships) because those structures allow us to experience complete freedom in other areas.  When we have something firm we can rely on, it permits us to relax into movement and release control just a little bit.  And that release of control is beautiful!

Mindfully shifting the locus of control, learning where to hold on and where to let go, is the best part of movement in my opinion.  The more you try to control the shimmy or make it something it’s not, the worse it looks.  Just provide a stable platform, and let your hips fly.