Health Risks for Male Belly Dancers

Belly dance is a very good exercise for both men and women of all shapes and sizes, age and cultural background. However, all good things may end bad if belly dance is not done right. This article explains what injuries can occur by belly dancing the wrong way, particularly as male and female bodies are structured and function differently. Contact me if you would like more information or wish to add more useful content to this article.

INTRODUCTION

In relation to the safety of the male body, all aspects point mainly to the pelvic area, which we obviously know is very different to females pelvic area.

Students, especially males who are more competitive in the presence of other males - sometimes perform violent movements without noticing how bad the damage is they have caused.

Competition between males has always been a healthy and natural reaction, but violent movements can cause severe aches that can be felt almost immediately, if not the following day, and which by all means can be a disaster.

On the other hand, even the most well-educated performers can cause damage to their bodies, typically because they get carried away by their passion and are not always aware of how sensitive and vulnerable their body is!

I personally insist on these parts of the male body when thinking of safety:

1. Waist

Violent movements are easy to perform during extended (when the pelvis is circling out of the axis) omni circles as this movement bends sideways, the involved spinal discs between the waist and the back.
As this is a very serious condition, injured students should avoid classes and other related activities for at least one week. If the pain persists, it's mandatory to consult a physician.
We should always practice in a safe mode in order for us to recognize our body's limits (an important consideration for all dance styles...) and secondly because the practice can reinforce the body to handle the hazardous movements and thus prevent injuries from re-occurring.

2. Back

As this is the supporting pole of the upper part of our bodies and is considered as the trunk; the back is always a vulnerable area regardless of gender.
From nature, boys make more jolted moves and can be "clumsy" (dancing level is not relevant) resulting in well-hidden damages that will come up at a later stage.
Our back is constructed to carry the axial forces of the upper part of the human body and we should pay respect to its limits...
Twists can cause minor hassles to the back (and to the abdomen) and its use from the boys should be limited because they lock their abdomen in order to perform better movements.

3. Iliac Crest

The iliac crest is of minor significance as there is no way for us to cause severe problems to this particular area. When an injury to this area occurs, it is typically related to excessive hip drops, usually by forcing our hips below the hip line.

4. Flank Area

Yes! It's easy to cause painful hassles on the flank area by performing the hip lifts and excessive tilts.
In the first case, hip lifts should always be performed by lying back the upper part of our body (only a little bit) in order to provide more hip exposure by twisting our pelvis inwards. The upwards-vertical hip lift should be used ONLY for warm up reasons (we can't dance it anyway...).
In the other case, tilts are used ONLY for warm up. No need to say that the main feeling, in order to reduce the possibility of causing stress to the body, is to constantly pull it up (thinking your movements to be outwards)! This is the heritage I received from my ballet education and I'll always force my students to follow this - highly recommended - procedure. Also, by thinking outwards you can achieve very clear body lines; something we need to justify our professional level and to keep the whole body active during our dance.

5. Abdomen

Abs are necessary for male dancers mainly for better control of the body and also for aesthetic reasons.
I always recommend for my students to practice pilates, ballet, yoga or even contemporary dance classes in order to improve their abs (and whole body) by dancing.
Doing so, our abs can become more flexible (for better undulations), more defined (for aesthetic reasons) and thus more masculine without being stiff.
This is the best way to reduce cramps when undulating or flattering. Cramps do occur, and in order to reduce them from occurring, it is important to perform better breathing and short repetitions (a must!).
Twists can cause major hassles and as Cleobulus said: "pan métron árıston" (i.e. everything in moderation).

6. Genitals

What is the most important body part for boys??? Our genitals of course, especially our testicles!
Male dancers should never wear loose underwear when dancing or when they attend a class or everyday wear underwear.
I experienced an injury down south in 2007, one of which I am still not completely over.
Back then I was dancing in the most luxurious nightclub of Athens and I got injured because that night I forgot my spasoir (the french term for ballet underwear) at home.
Males should always wear a spasoir or dance specific underwear at all times. I would say it is 200% mandatory to own a pair.
When men's testicles get sweaty they can stick on the adductors and by walking our steps (when performing or even in the class) they can tangle between our legs and twist causing severe (I dare to say unforgettable) pain...
In my opinion, testicles should always be en-caged in this particular dancers' underwear-gadget in order to avoid paying the bill... for the next few years (and in time...)!

7. Hypogastrium

Whilst this area needs to be VERY strong for many reasons most belly dancers don't pay attention.
As costumes get more revealing it is necessary for us to have a more attractive body. But the most considerable is the health aspect of this area.
It is necessary for us to drink water during working out, practicing or even in the class as these are more controllable environments but not when performing. You may think that is not a good idea to leave the floor for visiting the toilet but this is the least.
Excessive fluids in our bowel can cause even more undesirable situations such as cramps and other pain.

8. Spine

Our spine has a very limited spiral turning range so we have to be very conservative in a way, respecting our body limits, and hence to provide a more masculine image by refusing more feminine attitudes.
The torso has amazing capabilities which do not rely on the spinal function necessarily so it's better for us to use the front side as this is what our audience expects to admire.
Once we should keep in mind that the spine is the trunk of the human body. It starts from the "atlas" bone which is the base of the cranium and with the "coccyx" bone ends right at the pelvis.
Both atlas and coccyx have thinner bones compared to the thoracic vertebras and even more vulnerable discs. We should always consider it an indispensable part for our daily life and equally functional, and useful as per our limbs.

9. Glutes

Glutes aren't easy to get involved in the belly dance class because they do not include demi or grand pliés.
They can be injured as a result of poor warm up or misleading or poor direction from the teacher, but mainly because some students are not physically prepared even for the easiest movements, even if we or our teacher think otherwise.
Such pain is not considered severe, however if the pain becomes nasty, then possibly, includes more gluteal muscle and needs rest and abstention for some days.

10. Tendons

It is unusual for a belly dance student to got tendon injuries as belly dance is a mild exercise for the body with a very limited function of the lower limbs.
Nevertheless, if tendon injury occurs the student needs to consult a physician in order to prevent a possible inflammation.
Some students can have short achilles tendons making it hard for them to try more demanding exercises, but as I wrote above: we should respect our body's limits and keep in mind that they can differ from body to body...