These are the vocab of the dance. Isolations involve moving one part of the body while not moving (or moving differently) other parts of the body. For example a shoulder isolation would not include movement of the hips (or ribs or hands).

The degree of isolation will depend on the style you are performing. Oriental requires the ability to perform quite rigorous isolations. Folkloric (beledi) styles can be more relaxed. One way dancers show off their ability to isolate is in balancing. There are a number of props that are traditionally balanced including swords, trays, jars, baskets, and canes.

Good isolation takes control and flexibility. How hard you find an isolation will depend on your body.

Below are brief descriptions of some isolations. More detail on how to achieve them will be added from time to time.

Heads Shoulders Ribs Belly Hips


One move that seems to have been imported from India. Ensure your neck is well loosened first with lateral movements. Slide sideways keeping eyes & jaw parallel to floor (mental floss)


In most cases the isolation is displayed in the shoulder and upper arms only. Hands should be fixed in space. Hips should not get involved at all. Try practicing while driving or cycling J

Lift & drop can be used to loosen up but also control. Try both single and double lifts.

Roll forward & backward (L & R, both, alternate)

Slide back & forward the underlying move for a shoulder shimmy.


Use your hands to feel and move ribs if necessary. Movement should be of the rib cage NOT of the waist. Shoulders should be still. Hips should not move its called an isolation, right? These are the building blocks for torso undulations.


Not a fan of "belly tricks" myself. However, if you want to be able to do rolls etc here is a way to get started. First, you need to learn to control the many muscles in you abdomen.


Hips have a wide range of movement. The trick here is not just to isolate from other parts of the body but to control the degree of movement of the hips as well - eg not tilting on flat horizontal figure eights. It is very important for most hip isolations to keep the knees soft. (Used to be "bent" but it depends on your style "bent" gives a folkier flavour).

Rocks - up/down each hip, one after the other; no forward or backward or sideways movement or tilting. Weight should be evenly distributed and not move (initially). Your belly button should be still. Try it lying on your back on the floor. (for more detail click here )

Twists - like a washing machine.

Slides hip moves parallel to the floor to the side. No twisting or tilting of the pelvis. Weight is transferred. (for more detail click here)

Big (Flat horizontal) circles - feet a little wider, make a big circle shifting weight on feet - no tilting; keep body upright at this stage. (for more detail click here)

Horizontal figure eights. Two directions - inwards front RH -> back LH -> front LH -> back RH -> front RH and outwards front RH -> back RH -> front LH -> back LH -> front RH. While practicing use as much movement as you can squeeze out. Aim for torso still and facing forward; no tilting.

Lifts and Drops like the rock but on one hip. Lifts emphasize upward movement, drops downward. One leg in front lightly resting on ball of foot, lift/drop hip that is over forward leg. Can do either hip to front, side, or back.

Thrust - single hip forward, side, back

Tilting forward and back take great care with your lower back
(for more info on why to avoid this move read this)

Tilting (horizontal) circles - engage your abs while doing this; watch speed and force.
(for more info on why to avoid this move read this)

Single hip vertical circles

Single hip rolls (forward & back)

Vertical circles that draw a circle as seen from the front (ummys)

Vertical figure eights - both directions. The one that goes up, out down is sometimes called a "Maya". The one that goes down then out a "Downwards Eight".

Heels should stay on the floor - especially while learning to ensure they are driven by the abs and glutes not the legs.

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