Susan's Blog

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ode To A Backbend

To me, and perhaps many older dancers who are not as lithe as they used to be, going into a backbend is a move we dream about but are not at all sure we can do. It is perhaps one of the most dramatic, expressive and athletic poses you can execute, and it looks particularly impressive with a sword on ones head. Our teacher showed us the secret of getting into a backbend, and it killed no one.

With feet in second, knees a plie
I wondered what crazy shape
We’d contort to today

Our backs were straight
“Push slowly down,” she said
“It should only hurt in your thighs”
(‘Hurt’ was the word that stuck in my head.)

And sure enough, there came the burn
But that, I could just ignore
“Now turn your feet on their inner edges
And lean backward toward the floor.”

Not a sound was heard around the room
Each arched — and held — till the end
‘Cause when we regained consciousness
We had made a fantastic backbend!


I always feel the pain in my knees using that technique. I am working on my backbends in yoga, the trick for me has been lifting my chest and lowering my shoulders to create the illusion.

I wish I could do all that athletic stuff, but I can’t. For some reason it impresses the audience so much, even if the person isn’t such a great dancer, people will always clap more for the deep backbend than for an amazingly well executed shimmy or something.

— added by Shannon Brooke Davis on Friday, February 1, 2008 at 10:43 am

The beautiful trick to this particular backbend is that its an illusion of a backbend: its all about protecting your back – not arching – and using the strength of your thighs and butt to support your level change. If you position yourself in a very wide stance, toes pointing out to diagonal corners, bend your knees, tuck your pelvis, roll to the inside edges of your feet and gently push your hips forward, your chest lowering back but not arching your back – keeping your chin tucked into your chest or you put too much strain on your neck and back – you can test your boundaries and only dip as low as is comfortable for you. The position helps you stretch out your hip flexors and strengthen your thighs while not taxing your lower back. When performing this ‘backbend’, always remember to point your crotch away from the audience! Its so wonderful to practice and suddenly click with certain skills and movements of belly dance: I love your ode to a back bend, one of the many beautiful aspects of this incredibly rich dance form. More odes, more odes!

— added by Melina on Friday, February 1, 2008 at 5:06 pm

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