Traveling steps are a key element of the dancers repertoire. The best belly dancers seamlessly use foot patterns to make the best use of the space, no matter how big or small. Their steps perfectly match the mood of the music, rolling from one movement to the next with fluidity and grace.

So when do we use travelling steps? The simple answer is when the music calls for it. Here is an easy guide to create innovative traveling steps, inspired by the beautiful Brazilian dancer, Mahaila El Helwa.

Step 1 – Listen to the Music

What is the mood of the music? Is it a fast, energetic rhythm, such as Malfouf, Ayoub, Ayoubi, or Fox? Then consider steps that are equally dynamic, covering a large part of the stage. Or is it a Baladi or Shaabi section? Then you might want to use less space. Close your eyes, and write down any words that pop into your mind when listening to the music.

Step 2 – Choose the Technique

After you have identified the mood, it is time to choose the best technique to interpret the music. Does the music call for clean, classic traveling steps without any ornate hip movements? Or would the music be better accentuated with layered hip isolations or shimmies?

Firstly, choose the basic traveling steps:

  • Walk
  • Chassé
  • Arabesque
  • Reverse arabesque (or step, rond de jambe from the front to back)
  • Developé
  • Turns
    • Non-spotted or Sufi turns
    • Calibrated turns (or pivoting around your standing foot)
    • Cross over turns
    • Hook turns (or a cross over turn from the back)
    • Barrel turns
    • Chaîné turn (or a series of rapid turns on relevé)
    • Pirouette (en dedans or en dehors)
    • Piqué (en dedans or en dehors)

Next, decide if the music calls for hip movements layered on top of your basic traveling steps. You can layer with any of the following:

  • Figure eights
  • Circles
  • Undulations
  • Pelvic tilts in/out
  • Hip slides side to side
  • Hip drops
  • Twists
  • Shimmies

Step 3 – Get Creative

We tend to get stuck in the same transitions that we are comfortable with, yet there are many options for traveling steps. Think about how many times you will change your weight to perform the movement. Once, twice, three or four times?

A common two step foot pattern is the Arabic 1 (flat foot on front foot, then relevé on back foot). Or how about a classic Golden Era four step pattern known as the Arabic 2 (flat foot on front foot, relevé on back foot, relevé on front foot, and relevé on back foot)? Or maybe you want to go for a modern look, and prefer to use the Arabic 4 (flat foot or relevé on the front foot, step to the center on relevé, step back on relevé, step back to center on relevé).

Of course the possibilities are endless outside of these frequently used foot patterns. Try the same traveling movement with two weight changes, then three, and four to push your creative boundaries.

Step 4 – Play with Stylisations

What embellishments make sense for the music? You can add a relevé to certain steps, a knee dip, a chest drop, or head movements. And of course don’t forget your arms!

Step 5 – Choose the Direction

Think about where you are stepping. To the front, side or back? Do you want to face your audience to highlight an emotional sequence? Or do you want to show off your lines with a flattering side view?


Lastly, don’t forget to consider how you will finish the traveling step to seamlessly flow into next sequence.


Who inspires your traveling steps? Share with us!



Mahaila El Helwa’s workshop

Sadie’s online classes

Henna’s online classes


Photo provided by Avesun

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