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Reptilinear Locomotion (reptile-linear)
Hips Like a Pencil Concept
The Goddesses Quills

by Delilah

bellydance snake These two concepts are pivotal in understanding the slow hypnotic movement techniques of belly dance. A great visual analogy found in nature is the sinuous, linear movement of a snake. Spend some time at a pet store or zoo, observing the movement of one of our serpent friends. Watch how each segment of the snake's muscular body flows from point to point in one contiguous line; how each succeeding section of the snake's body follows along the exact same path traced out by the snake's head.  Once you've learned to appreciate the graceful fluidity of this motion, you'll understand when I say: 

"A snake could write my name across the sand if she wanted to."

Now we need to transfer this image of fluid serpentine movement into our own bodies. How? (No snakes! I promise!!)

Begin by writing your name slowly across a piece of paper in cursive. No printing. (I can tell the difference!) Notice how you focus your attention into the point of the pencil? We're going to call this focused attention the "Pencil Point Focus".

In belly dancing, we use that same kind of concentrated attention, but instead of holding the pencil with our hand, we will "hold" an imaginary pencil (or quill) in various places in our bodies in a variety of ways.

Through the Goddesses quill a body language becomes written with bone and flesh to understood through the eye of the observer and the kenetic awareness of the dancer.

We are learning not only to create line drawings with our bodies, but get inside of them. For our course of movements, we can use the universal shapes or symbols of the ancient Goddess cultures, our own alphabet, or another culture’s calligraphy or vegetative designs. Be inventive, explore and have fun.
bellydance snake

1. Stationary pencil point focus

Here the focused attention resides at a stationary place in the body.  The surrounding body moves the imaginary pencil point to draw shapes, forms, symbols or letters on an imagined plane located through or about the body.  This plane is called the "medium".  Think of it as the imaginary "paper sheet" on which you are drawing these patterns.


  • A full hip circle drawn with the "core point" (see "glossary" for this and other terms used below); 
  • A circle drawn with one hip;
  • A circle and a half drawn with the sternum

2.  Changing pencil point focus

The focused attention starts at one place in the body (for example the left hip), with the pencil point drawing out the intended pattern until its course crosses the median line of the body. The pencil point focus then shifts immediately to a new location (usually to the opposite side of the body; in our example, the right hip) and the pencil point, anchored in its new location, then draws out a new pattern.  When it again crosses the median line, the pencil point focus returns to its original location (e.g., the left hip) and the pencil point traces a third pattern.  This can cycle back and forth as many times as the dancer desires.   


  • Full figure eight parallel to the floor (PTF)
    One-half of the figure eight is drawn with the left hip. The pencil point continues to draw the pattern through the crossing intersection of the figure eight (which is located in the median line of the body) at which time the pencil point focus transfers to the right hip, which proceeds to draw the rest of the figure eight pattern with the pencil point.  Remember that, even though the pencil point focus moves from hip to hip, the pencil point itself continues to draw the figure eight in one continuous, fluid motion. This is what I mean when I say, "Keep your pencil on the paper!"

3. Transitory pencil point focus

bellydance snakeThe pencil point focus moves throughout the body.  It moves through a sequences of muscles, joints, the torso, and limbs.  It changes direction and planes. The medium is no longer a two-dimensional plane, but has become a 3-dimensional medium — the body itself.


  • Triple belly roll 
    The pattern is first drawn with the muscles of the lower belly. The focus then moves upward and frontward into the middle belly, then up to the diaphragm and up over the sternum. It then falls back into the shoulder blades, moves down the spine and returns to the pelvis, where we can begin the cycle all over again.

4. Multiple pencil point focus

More than one pencil point focus is located in the body at the same time.

  • Hip circle with rib cage circle — commonly called the "coffee grinder" or "peppermill"
    One pencil point focus is at the core point of the hips; the other is at the core point of the rib cage. They are both drawing a circle PTF at the same time.  Head and feet stay aligned on the core pole. Note that the two pencil points will move opposite each other, i.e., when the hip pencil point is moving out to the left, the rib cage pencil point will be moving out to the right.

5. Combinations

Combining a selection of stationary, changing, transitory and multiple pencil point foci in a variety of ways, the dancer can create a unique presentation, guided by her inner artistic vision.


  • Maya or outward figure eight, to torso undulation up the body, to head circle PTF, to left shoulder roll PTFW, to right arm sepentine undulation and backto core ribcage, to undulation down and back into Maya.

Reptilinear Locomotion Favorites

  • Full body undulation side to side; lead from a point at the top and middle of your forehead; sway back and forth in an undulation pattern parallel to the front wall. Let the bends in the body respond in order; head, neck, shoulders, ribs, waist, hips, thighs, knees.
  • Full body undulation front to back; put one foot slightly forward; rock forward and back as the serpent undulation — starts in your knees and rolls up through the body consecutively. Photo and drawing
  • Serpentine arm undulation from wrist to wrist; start will arms raised and out to the sides in a straight line. Begin with the fingertips of the left and send an undulating wave pattern through the wrist followed by the elbow, left shoulder, right shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingertips of the right.
  • Floor work undulation; forward, backward or side to side.
  • Cleopatra’s undulation; while on the floor recline to the right. Straighten the wrist and place it exactly under the right shoulder. Lift your hip off the floor and undulate your body back and forth. This one takes a bit of strength.
  • Snake puppets; pretend the tips of your fingers are the face of a snake and let them lead in a serpentine course around you in the air. Your shoulder, elbow and wrist flex in reptilinear response to the dips, dives and loops the head of the face makes.

bellydance snake

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


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