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Right Brain
Creative Belly Dance Approach;
Drawing exercises

by Delilah

We have intentionally placed the right brain attributes on the left hand side of the page because the right brain controls the left side of your body

Right Brain Characteristics

Right Brain Snake

Intuitive, metaphoric, spatial, insightful, holistic, random, synthetic, selective, timeless, looks at wholes, non-verbal, concrete, analogic, non-rational, dance, music, fantasy, inventive, rhythmic, impulsive, messy, follows demonstration, people-oriented, sense of humor, geometric, recognizes faces, looks for patterns, inventive, informal, feeling, visual, kinesthetic, pioneering, team player, multi-tasker, developing, daydreamer, colorful, fluid, spontaneous, drawing, playing, prefers collegial authority, looks for similarities

Locked inside the belly dance is a symbolic language handed down through time. In this dance every part of the body learns to express itself independently through isolated movements as well as in concert with each other. It is as if every part of the body is given a voice. The voices speak through the energetic flow of movements drawn within symbolic pathways in the body.These movements awaken emotions and deep body memory in the dancer as well as in the observer. Often, feelings emanating a very ancient and universal quality are invoked. They give rise to the evolutionary stories of humankind, bound in bone and flesh since the beginning. These are called living Archetypes. It is the ancient goddess symbols that bring the Archetypes back to life through the corridors of time. Many of the shapes and symbols we are going to use in our exercises come directly from the ancient language of the goddess as cataloged by Marija Gimbutas, professor emeritus of the Archeology Department at UCLA, in her study of cultures dating back to 5,000 BC and much earlier. You will find them in every place on the globe as well as in your dreams, for they are universal.They were left behind in the earth for us to re-learn, re- member, and to reveal the feminine wisdom that they bequeathed to humanity.

Three basic categories of movement

Flowing Watery Movements: Patterned movements that utilize speed and the flow of direction to fold into rhythmic figure 8 patterns, spirals, undulations, circles, crescents, shapes and angles;
Textural Energetic Movements: Vibrations, shimmies, shakes, swishes,sways, drops, lifts, contractions, jerking, rhythm patterns and accents of different speeds and dynamics;
Layering Movements: Combination of textural movements applied over the top of flowing movement patterns.

When we practice belly dance or witness the dance at its finest, it is as if something forgotten is unleashed inside us. This dance centers on the belly, the breasts and hips, thus giving it a deep feminine connection to birth, nature and the creative process. It celebrates the very crucible of life and the origins of each and every one of us. While these concepts are at the root of the feminine experience, we don’t want to sound too visceral, for the dance leads us to express the full array of the sensual and emotional realms that form the expression of life, with the heart of the theme being CREATIVITY! This doesn’t happen much in our society. We rarely get to witness the intrinsic capacity of the feminine as sacred, as power, as art – juicy and on her own terms. The synthesis of these principles carries a revolutionary quality for the feminine spirit!

We have intentionally placed the left brain attributes on the right hand side of the page because the left brain controls the right side of your body.

Left Brain Characteristics

Left Brain Snake

Logical, symbolic, sequential, rational, abstract, objective, looks at parts, mathematical, verbal, analytical, organized, critical, time-oriented, translates letters into sound, controlled feelings, concluding, linear, follows verbal instructions, competitive, orderly, energetic, cheerful, cold, goal-oriented, on time, perfectionist, completes things, prefers ranked authority, black and white, names and describes things, algebra, thinking , writing, list making, looks for differences

Drawing from the right side of your navel

Belly dance is a brain exercise for your right hemisphere!

Dance, of course, uses both sides of your brain but because it’s spatial, feeling, and experiential, it is very fitted to the right brain. When we apply choreography, counting and analytical processes to dance, we take it into the left brain. This under-acknowledges the emotional and spiritual aspects that draw from the right side of the brain and give the dance, and all art, its living substance. In these exercises, I want to loosen you up and engage the artist within you. So we are going to try not to do too much of that left brained stuff for now.

Dance is by nature a right brain activity, but you wouldn’t know it by the way it’s approached in most institutions. One of the appeals of belly dancing for women is that it’s a dance fitted very much for the right brain. Instead of using memorization, counts and cookie cutter dance positions, we will begin our approach to this dance from a more feeling, intuitive, and personal place. The first thing you do to engage your right brain is to visualize yourself as a creatrix!

Belly dance is a dance where the feminine is allowed to unfold in its fullness and feel at home, thus allowing the entire world of dance expression to be at your command. We are not going to paint by numbers and someday become an artist. Let us start with the assumption we already are artists, and we all have something unique to express. Relax, you will find you already know a lot of it, I’m just going to set you on your course.

In the 1980s, a popular book written by Betty Edwards, titled "Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain," became very inspirational to me. It’s a fascinating experiential book on how to increase inborn creativity by exploring how we think, visualize and process things by way of engaging different hemispheres of our brain.

The left hemisphere of our brain prefers a linear, verbal, logical, symbolic, and analytic way of processing, while the right hemisphere of our brain works with spatial, holistic, non-verbal, intuitive processes. The left is what I’m using to write this text, and the right gives me my dance, rhythm, music and sense of invention. While the left brain wants to name things, the right brain seeks to know them more familiarly. These hemispheres determine our right or left handedness. Because there are more right handed people than left, we can see how dominantly the left brain has asserted itself biologically. For the average right handed population, the right brain is said to control the left side of our body and the left brain controls the right side of our body. When it comes to left handed or ambidextrous folks this is not as cut and dry. Mother nature has a few variations that the scientists are still trying to figure out. But in most cases, the rule applies, even down to the fact that the opposite hemisphere controls our eyes and facial expressions.

I am definitely a more right hemisphere dominated person. I even favor my left hip in belly dance (meaning with my right brain ). There are two basic ways to perform a basic belly roll: inward and outward. Just like the right hand /left hand thing, there seems to be an automatic proclivity. Most of my students would agree that the in-and-upward belly roll is the easiest for them, and the down-and-outward belly roll feels as weird as it does when a right handed person is trying to write with her left hand. I would guess about 15-20% of my students would say the exact opposite (more on that later.

We all use both sides of our brain to do everything (including dance), but individuals will find that one side of the brain is a more dominant part of their personality. Certain activities will engage skills from one side more than the another. We are told that most children score very high in right brain creative functions on the day they enter school. But our educational systems favor left brain functioning rather than right brain, as does most of our culture, so test scores on right brain functions fall drastically after children enter school. Educators are aware of this problem and the best teachers seek ways to exercise more right brain functions.

Maybe belly dance should be taught in grade school! I'll vote for that.

Drawing from the right side of your navel: the exercises

Creative drawing exercises help us to understand things a bit differently. Instead of approaching belly dance as one would approach ballet or a folk dance from foot patterns, counting and memorized choreography, to get a sense of the organic qualities of the dance we will begin our approach to belly dance as a drawing exercise.

Do each exercise 1-6 sequentially in 3 different steps

STEP 1 Do each exercise 1-6 using paper and pencil.
STEP 2: Do each exercise 1-6 using the transaxial model.
STEP 3: Then go back and apply each of the exercises within your body.

* Explore the different levels and placements of the "pencil point focus"

Writing exercise 1

Write your name on a piece of paper in cursive. Pretty easy isn’t it? Now write it slowly and examine the process more closely. Our signature does not appear on our checks by itself. We concentrate our attention into the point of a pencil to guide the pencil point across the paper by our focused bodily awareness and intention. Let’s call this the “Pencil Point Focus”.

Drawing exercise 2 – Contained

With the point of your pencil, draw these shapes with an even speed over and over again, in place on the paper as if they had no beginning and no end. Feel the rhythm inside of them as you draw them. At the same time be aware of your breathing.

bellydance symbols

Circle; Figure 8

Drawing exercise 3– Over the top of each other

Now draw these series of shapes one at a time, over the top of each other without taking the pencil off the paper. Keep drawing the series multiple times in any order. Feel the flow of the rhythm and expand on it intuitively. Let your pencil dance. Note: Your left brain may get anxious at what the drawings look like on the paper. That's not the point of the exercise. Keep your attention on the movement and remind your self to breath.

bellydance symbols

Circle; Eight; Occuli

bellydance symbols

Circle, Spiral in and Spiral out, Fig Eight

bellydance symbols

Circle, Undulation, quadra circle

bellydance symbols

Triple circle, Figure eight, big loop little loop

Drawing exercise 4 – Side by side

Now do the same 4 series of exercises with connecting a line to each shape side by side (just like cursive writing). If you want to go over any part of the pattern more than once, go ahead. Do not be concerned with the mess you maybe making on the paper. It's the movement we are concerned with. There are no hard and fast rules; just stay within the line drawing as much as possible except for transitions and make it fluid. Keep drawing the series multiple times in any order.

Drawing exercise 5 – In reverse directions

All of the figures below, accept for the circle, come to dead ends. Draw each of these patterns one at a time. When you get to the end of the design, reverse the direction and trace over your pattern back and forth.In the case of the circle imagine where you want it to begin and end and reverse directions. Draw them over and over again, feeling and playing with the rhythm and flow within the pattern. Study with your right brain how it feels to shift the direction. Take your time. You can even put a beat between when you shift directions

Circle; Circle and a half; Loop

Pyramid; Spiral; Dome; Safety pin

Slow Dance Transition - Reptilinear Locomotion
Exercise 6

The above writing example is exactly what we are going to do in the belly dance. We pretend that we have a pencil we can move around with our body. We are drawing shapes and patterns with different parts of our body on various planes or levels in our bodies.

The transition from one pattern to the next is just like cursive writing. We don’t take the pencil off the paper to draw the next letter . One shape folds into the next, giving the dance a very hypnotic character. This technique is continued into different planes. Our pencil point is not limited to one dimension, but can travel onto different planes.

Example: hip circles, rib cage circle, hip circles to right hip circles

Point your finger out into space and imagine the planes. Now imagine that your pencil point focus is in the tip of your finger.This will be easy because we will be drawing on planes with the dimensions of a flat piece of paper. Let us draw a circle a few times on the hip plane parallel to the floor, and then draw it up through the body like a spiraling coil to the rib cage plane, where a circle is drawn a few times. Then coil it back down again to the hip plane for a few more circular rotations. Then transition to the right hip where it draws a few small circles parallel to the right wall. Finally, fold it back into the hip circle again and repeat the entire sequence. You can simulate this process on paper with a pencil before you try pointing your finger in the air and drawing the patterns through the plane levels and perspectives about your body. Then try it with the body itself


STEP 1 Do each exercise 1-6 using paper and pencil.
STEP 2: Do each exercise 1-6 using the transaxial model.
STEP 3: Then go back and apply each of the exercises within your body.

* Explore the different levels and placements of the "pencil point focus"

Try recognizing some of these patterns on our Dance Map Puzzle.

Making Connections

Connective shapes can be simple and direct lines, undulations, curves, coils and loops. Be creative. As you explore you will begin to find combinations that you really like. They will eventually become your dance trademarks.

A Companion to Delilah's Bellydance
Workshop Series,
Volumes I, II, III


Visionary Belly Dancing
4115 Fremont Ave N Seattle, WA 98103 USA