How many times have we done belly dance shows without warming up first?

Hmmm…..I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that probably out of 10 performances, we may have only warmed up once. I’ll also go a step further and say that the warm-up most likely consisted of some quick breathing due to nerves and maybe some shimmies getting into costume and making sure there would be no wardrobe malfunction, right? It may sound funny, but there is some truth to that for some of us! I admit I have been a frequent offender of skipping over some necessary warm-up time. As such, I have made a conscious effort in recent years to loosen up my body for a few minutes, even if I am dancing to one song. The truth is, although we may feel okay or we think our dance routine is ‘too relaxed and simple’, our bodies always risk potential injury dancing full out without having taken at least a little bit of time to move around first. Sometimes, it only takes a very minimal movement for our bodies to remind us of that.

Aside from helping to prevent injury, the other benefit to warming up is that it helps you relax prior to your performance. I can honestly say that I do not get as nervous as I used to when I began performing years ago, but there are times when even the slightest nerves kick in just before I go on. This is normal for any performer, even the most seasoned ones. That said, when I take the time to warm up, I find that it helps shift my focus from those nerves to a calmer spirit, allowing me to have a more comfortable and natural performance, especially when I feel added pressure before certain shows.

Warming up is not limited to a pre-show time “to-do list”, however; anytime we participate in any physical activity or sport, it is paramount that we loosen our bodies. When you think of something as simple as rolling out of bed first thing in the morning, most of us tend to stretch out our arms and legs, right? In fact, it is a bit challenging at times just to get out of bed because our bodies have not sufficiently “woken up” to move around as we normally would during the day. Think of your muscles like a rubber band that has been stored in the cold overnight. If you attempt to stretch out a cold rubber band, it may tear or break. However, once the rubber band is at room temperature, you can stretch it out completely without a tear. The same goes for our bodies. You do not ever want to push your body past the limit when it is still cold; you need to move it around first to build up a warmer temperature so that your muscles have somewhere to go without risking injury. Remember, it doesn’t have to take so much time; the important thing is to do it.

To demonstrate some effective warm up exercises, I’ve created a short video called Belly Dance Warm Up Exercises and Drills (see above) targeting every area of the body specific to belly dance movement. These drills are not just great as a warm-up prior to a show, but also to loosen you up before a belly dance class, workshops and rehearsals or even before your daily dance training at home. Please note that you do NOT need to do every exercise shown in the video. Although the video is just under 12 minutes long, I realize that not everyone has that time, particularly if you have a hectic schedule. Believe me, I understand; no pressure at all! These serve simply as recommendations I wanted to share because they have been extremely helpful for me. If you are short on time, you can do a shorter combination of just a few of these or pick and choose the ones which work best for you. Either way, it will be just as beneficial. The key here is to move around, even if it is only for 5 minutes. You will get your entire body warm, prepped, relaxed and most importantly, free from possible injury.

I truly hope this can be instrumental for your dance routine and/or workout practice. Please feel free to contact me with any questions and share with others if you are so inclined!

Keep on dancing!
Peace and shimmies,

Born and raised in New York City of Dominican heritage, Rena embraces and is influenced by all styles of music and dance. She is a first generation Hispanic-American, proud of both her Latin roots as well as having been born in the United States. She grew up knowing that dancing was naturally in her blood and credits her parents with her ability to learn and adapt to any dance form. This is evident in Rena’s passion and discipline for Oriental Dance. Within a relatively short amount of time, she absorbed the technique and emotion unique to this art form as well as having gained respect from instructors and dance colleagues alike.

Rena is a professionally-trained belly dancer with over 10 years experience in performance, instruction and choreography. She initially incorporated belly dance into her workout routine as part of her health and fitness regimen. Within days, she fell in love with the art form and decided she not only wanted to reap the health benefits from it, but was also interested in performing and educating others. Rena’s performance style is American Cabaret Style, with elements of Egyptian, Lebanese, Turkish, Latin, Brazilian and Flamenco. She has been commended by both her mentors and colleagues for her precise hip and abdominal work, expressive hand and arm movements and overall passionate delivery. Rena feels beyond privileged to have also performed live with some of the best Middle Eastern musicians in Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey.

Aside from being passionate about belly dance, Rena has been involved in many other aspects of the entertainment industry over the years. She is a serious health and fitness enthusiast, continuously striving to educate herself in all things fitness-related as well as maintaining her own consistent workout routine. Rena has worked as a swimsuit model, promotional model, is a trained vocalist and has appeared as an actress in musical theater, TV shows, film, commercials and music videos. Thus, creativity and artistry is something that constantly dwells within her being. Her energetic spirit, drive and positive outlook are strong factors in her determination to stay strong, healthy and at peace as she continues to pursue her passion.

Rena Raqs Fitness: Where Belly Dance Meets Fitness
“You’ve truly danced when you’ve allowed your body to become the music, surrendering your very being to its rhythm and cadence, expressing that which words alone cannot sufficiently utter.” – Rena