The shimmy

The shimmy is what everyone seems to love and look forward to. Here's the a definition from the Oxford English Dictionary...

  • noun (pl. shimmies) 1 a kind of ragtime dance in which the whole body shakes or sways. 2 abnormal vibration of the wheels of a motor vehicle
  • verb (shimmies, shimmied) 1 dance the shimmy. 2 shake or vibrate abnormally. 3 move swiftly and effortlessly
  • of unknown origin

The shimmy is the name given to a particular movement in Middle Eastern dance, which is where I believe this movement originates.

To shimmy the lower body is done from the basic dance posture by alternately bending each knee in fast rhythmic succession, along with using the gluteous (buttock) muscles, in alternate contractions, resulting in a quivering of the legs, buttocks and tummy. The effect is almost like watching jelly shaking or wobbling. The same movement can be performed through executing quick and small hip lifts. This can be done very subtly through small contractions, or made big and energetic through larger and slower alternating contractions.

Important note: Do not shimmy your lower body if you are pregnant, though shoulder shimmies can be done and are good for strengthening the pectoral muscles which are responsible for supporting your breasts which can get heavy with milk.

The shimmy is soft or strong vibration that emanates from the legs and causes the abdomen to shake fast and rhythmically. The trick is to keep relaxing into it - if you feel yourself tensing up, breathe and focus on relaxing.

Standing in basic position with your weight a little more in the heels, bend and straighten each knee alternately (do not lock the knees when you straighten, always leave them slightly bent). Simultaneously rock your hips on the vertical axis, as though you are doing tiny hip lifts, channel the energy generated by these subtle hip lifts into the base of the buttocks, keep your tummy muscles tight and off you go! You should feel your quads burn!

Another form is the 'twist shimmy', which is articulated by twisting your hips from front to back on the horizontal axis, keeping your knees supple and keeping your upper body as still as humanly possible!

The 'tippy-toe', or 'choo-choo' shimmy is generated by standing on the balls of your feet and alternating your weight from one foot to the other, padding the ground with the balls of your feet as fast as possible. Take up this motion with your hips and channel it into your buttocks.

Then there is the 'one legged' version, articulated by placing one foot behind you on it's ball, with all your weight on the front leg and you generate the shimmy from the ankle and knee.

You can play with the shimmy as a variation to other core movements, such as doing it with an infinity curve or hip circle, get creative, tranced out and sweaty!

Top or shoulder shimmy's are generated from between the shoulder blades at your back, the shoulders making small movements, forward and back, in quick succession on the horizontal plane.

With shoulder shimmy's your breasts take up the motion and from then on its just gentle momentum! (the effect of this motion is not to shake your breasts in the audiences' face) If you have large breasts you may find it more comfortable to make the movement of the shoulders very small and slow.

To find out what costumes are best to wear when doing the shimmy please click here.


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