How to Be a “Spin” Doctor: Tips for the Whirling-Impaired

DSC_0082While making the rounds on Bhuz this morning, somebody posted a great question about spinning: “How do I work up speed and stamina for dervish-style whirling with double veils without reaching for the Dramamine?”

In my circles, I’ve been dubbed as both a Spinning Goddess and Queen of Double Veil, so I thought I’d take a crack.

The thing that just plain sucks about spinning, versus a stationary, muscular move like a belly roll or an omi, is that some of us really have to fight our own biology to nail it. I can whirl for 60 seconds straight if the music calls for it, but I have friends who want to lose their lunch after 2 barrel turns. Those of us who are prone to motion sickness will obviously struggle. Even a common cold or allergies can throw you off course, depending on how congested your head is.

That being said, I’ve heard of a few ways to compensate, and I have a couple of methods to keep my own stamina up during a particularly lengthy series of spins.

Read and learn, grasshoppers:

  • Think “Ginger Spice”Β Before Things Get “Scary”Β – Horrendous Spice Girls pun, I know, but ginger is an awesome natural fix for occasional motion sickness or nausea. With successful results, I nibbled on candied ginger throughout a 4-hour workshop with spinning diva Petite Jamilla, on a 98-degree August afternoon in muggy Manhattan, in a studio with no A.C. You can take ginger candied, in capsules, or in the form of a tea – your pick. Or go to your local health food store and ask a consultant for other remedies. Make sure to take it before you dance.
  • Start SlowIf you suffer from dizziness or nausea, the single most barfworthy course of action is to attempt to recreate Petite Jamilla’s routines from Bellydance Superstars on your first, second, or third try. Ease into it. Start with one spin. Stop. Work up to two. Take a breather. Keep slowly working your way up until you’ve hit your limit, and call it a day.
  • Experiment With SpottingTry spotting to a point straight in front of you, a rafter on the ceiling, an object on the floor, your arm extended in front of you. Each focal point has its own unique aesthetic look, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just find what works best for you, and feel free to mix it up.
  • Go Cross-Eyed When I’m doing a dervish-style sequence of spins (the type with the head flip), I like to let my vision blur or close my eyes. This eliminates the dizzying visual effect of the room spinning around you, and looks prettier to the audience than, say, your eyeballs rolling back into your head like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
  • Create a DistractionSometimes, when I get dizzy, I find it helpful to focus my energy on varying the spin and embellishing it. Think level changes (go on releve, flat footed, drop down slightly), add a slight undulation or hip circle to make it ooey-gooey, do something gorgeous to frame your body with your arms, speed it up or slow it down, throw in a choo-choo shimmy. Again, don’t try this until you’re proficient and comfortable with a long-ish series of spins. But mixing it up is good for your style, restores your equilibrium, and makes you feel more focused on your technique than on any mild, reasonable amount of discomfort you may be feeling.
  • When All Else Fails, Stop Don’t be a hero. If you’re performing or practicing and feel more than a slight, manageable amount of dizziness, gradually ease your way out of the turn (some find it helpful to spin in the opposite direction, slowly), and resume some other type of movement that fits the music. (This is why I don’t recommend choreographing 2 minutes of barrel turns into a routine if you’re not sure you can do it. At least have a Plan B).
  • Rethink Your Double Veil Style: Though the purpose of this post was to give advice on whirling, I’m going to throw it out on the table that there are a million and two ways to do double veil that don’t involve 4 consecutive minutes of spinning. If you keep practicing your spins and still find yourself dizzy, go on YouTube and see how other dancers do double veil. Aradia of Las Vegas does fast double veil that involves making cool air patterns and percussive movements in between strategically placed spins. And Aszmara of NYC showed me how to do double veil in an ooey-gooey way, by using two large rectangles of different textures (one silk, one chiffon) and focusing on the sensuality of drapery and moving in and out of the veils.

This is all the advice I have to give. For further help, I’d highly encourage you to attend any double veil workshop with Petite Jamilla, or check out Marguerite’s DVD on Spins & Turns.

The Queen of the Whirled,


Comments · 1

  1. One more interesting observation that I forgot:

    Careesah, my good friend and one of my early teachers, recently noted that wearing full circle skirts helps her feel the momentum of her spins and turns. Though I prefer my skirts more fitted, this is something I’ve noticed, too.

    If this costume style fits the type of music you’re dancing to and the venue you’re dancing at, you might want to see if having a little extra fabric around your legs and hips helps!

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