Jamila Salimpour, who was the first to codify and create a step vocabulary for belly dance, would tell her students to “tense your hip” to lift the hips, and students would figure out on their own, usually by using their legs or obliques, to mimic the movement. But Suhaila wanted a solution that allowed her legs to be free for kicks, splits, or whatever foot pattern she wanted to use and also that allowed the obliques to be free for upper body movements.
Suhaila figured out that by focusing on the gluteus muscles, she could create strong hipwork. She had been experimenting with the idea for some time, but it was when Prince’s Controversy album debuted in 1981, when Suhaila was 14, that she established a methodology for practice. Every afternoon after school while doing her homework and listening to the album, she would sit on her bed in straddle sit to practice her glute squeezes. The position helped her isolate the gluteus muscles from her legs to make sure that she was working the gluteus muscles independently for hipwork. She observed that the movement started in the gluteus maximus and, over time with practice, grew to include the gluteus medius and minimus. She continued developing the technique throughout high school to Prince’s other albums: 1999 in 1982 and Purple Rain in 1984.
In 1982 she discovered that she could squeeze her glutes into a vibration, which is a continuous, sustained glute contraction (of one glute or both) held to create a vibration or trembling quality like a shimmy. She honed her technique so that her vibrations had different and controllable levels of intensity and speed.
Suhaila had been using her glute work in her performances from an early age; but it wasn’t until the 1990s, once she returned from performing professionally in the Middle East, that her method was introduced to the greater bellydance world. Suhaila’s novel technique was an immediate sensation. It was considered revolutionary by some, and controversial by others. But, because of her method’s effectiveness, using glute work for hipwork, became a recognized standard by 2005.