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Learn Belly Dancing - The Atéa Method™

Basic Ribcage Circles (Chest Circles) - Belly Dance Moves and Lessons

belly dance moves There are 3 basic ribcage circles that form the core of a bellydancer’s rolling or wave-like upper torso moves, including belly rolls and undulations. The 3 basic ribcage circles result in 3 different types of belly rolling motion and are usually applied to melody and/or slower tempos of belly dance music. Practicing these basic core moves will also assist in mastering the angular ribcage techniques of bellydance.

Belly Dance Posture and Straight Leg Stance

There are a variety of stances and postures that can be used for all belly dancing upper torso moves. Beginning belly dance students can benefit by learning the basic ribcage circles in isolation, with no movement from the waist down. For this, assuming the straight leg stance is easiest for most bellydancers.

Straight Leg Belly Dancing Stance: Stand with your feet slightly apart, approximately hip or shoulder width, with both feet flat on the floor and your toes pointing forward. Your weight should be evenly distributed between both feet and you should feel solidly connected to the ground. Knees are straight, but never locked tight. Hips and pelvis are centered and held level to the ground. The ribcage is pulled gently up with the stomach held comfortably in. Shoulders are relaxed back and down.

Your head and torso are vertically aligned to the floor forming a center axis, or vertical column, running from the top of your head, through the center of your torso, and exiting at a point between your feet.

You have a choice of many arm positions or arm movements that can accompany any stance, but when you're first perfecting the core move, it's easiest to just hold the arms in a graceful and comfortable pose.

Everyone’s body type is different. You can make subtle adjustments to your stance so that you feel comfortable, centered, and well balanced for your bellydancing.

Belly Dance Isolation Technique

It is best to first learn the core belly dance ribcage moves by isolating them, with no movement from the waist down. To make sure that there is no movement from the waist down, it helps to tighten the muscles in the lower torso and upper legs. Never lock your knees tightly. Once you’re comfortable doing your ribcage techniques correctly, you can add other body moves or assume other stances for your bellydancing.

1) Horizontal Ribcage Circle

For a horizontal ribcage circle, assume your straight leg stance and pretend that you’re standing in the middle of a circle painted on the floor. Isolate your ribcage and trace the circle by focusing on the movement coming mainly from your diaphragm area, which is located below your ribs and above your navel.

Start by sliding your ribcage to the right, then slide forward, then slide to the left side, slide to the back, and then back to your starting point. Keep your shoulders and ribcage level to the ground as you trace your circle. Think of balancing imaginary water glasses on your shoulders to help you keep your upper torso level to the ground. Practice tracing a small ribcage circle until you are comfortable with the correct technique and flow of energy. With practice you can make your circles larger if you wish, but small moves are still great exercise and look wonderful. As you work the diaphragm area and ribcage in a circular motion, a side-to-side belly rolling action is created in the abdominal area.

Any circular movement can be done in a direction that is either clockwise or counter-clockwise. You’ll find that one direction will be easier for you than the other and that is the direction you’ll use most often in your bellydancing. It’s not necessary to master both directions in your circular belly dance movements, but by practicing both you’ll gain greater exercise benefits and more variety in your bellydancing.

2) Diagonal Ribcage Circle

In the diagonal ribcage circle, also called a clock circle, pretend that you are facing a round clock on the wall in front of you. Standing in your straight leg stance, trace the outline of the clock by isolating your ribcage and sliding the diaphragm and ribcage to the right side, up, to the left side, down, and back to your starting point. Round the movement off, making a smooth circle. When the ribcage rolls upward you are stretching your muscles and when you roll downward, you are relaxing the muscles. This results in a diagonal belly rolling action.

3) Vertical Ribcage Circle

The vertical ribcage circle is very important because it’s the foundation move for upper torso undulations and the basic belly roll. Standing in a straight leg stance, isolate the diaphragm area and ribcage and stretch forward, up, relax back and down. As you roll forward and up, you are stretching. As you roll back and down, you are relaxing. Keep the shoulders relaxed and let the diaphragm area do most of the work as you roll forward, up, back, and down. Keep practicing until you can make the movement a smooth, continuous circle. Notice the vertical belly rolling action that is developing.

4) Vertical Ribcage Circle With Torso Undulation (Upper Torso Undulation)

Bellydancers use the vertical ribcage circle most often in the form of an upper torso undulation (sometimes called a “camel” move). Standing in a basic stance (same as the straight leg stance but with the knees starting out slightly bent and flexible) perform the vertical ribcage circle and allow the motion to flow from the upper torso all the way down to the ground. The lower torso is pushed and pulled in the opposite direction of your rolling ribcage. Start in basic stance and roll in your vertical ribcage circle, keeping your hips, pelvis, legs, and knees very relaxed. If you are sufficiently relaxed, the lower part of the body will react naturally and automatically in opposition to the movement of the rolling ribcage. When the ribcage rolls forward, the pelvis rolls back. When the ribcage rolls up, the knees straighten. As the ribcage rolls back, the pelvis rolls forward. And when the ribcage rolls down, the knees bend and you are back at your starting point in basic stance. Don’t think too hard about what the entire body is doing. Concentrate on the ribcage rolling forward, up, back, and down, and allow the energy to flow freely through the torso and down into the legs and feet.


Horizontal ribcage circle instruction in “Bellydance! Magical Motion” Instruction. Basic ribcage moves are taught in the “Bellydance! Magical Motion” DVD. Advanced ribcage moves are taught in the “Bellydance! Slow Moves” DVD.

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