The Art of Hands and Arms
Hands and Arms
To become a proficient dancer (and one who is a joy to behold), it is imperative that the hands and arms are given as much attention as the hips and costume. There are myriad different hand and arm postures and movements, so you must experiment to find the ones that look best with your body type and dance style. Since their full range of motion is seldom utilized, your arms may tire easily at first, but be persistent! Soon the most severe postures and the most delicate of movements will become second nature.
As with all other movements in Belly Dance, isolation is the key to amazing hand/arm movement. You must first work with movements that isolate the shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers. To execute lovely undulating snake arms you must roll the shoulders, the elbow, the wrist and the fingertips. Each has its own separate isolated movement which must be diligently practiced until its motion is smooth and seamlessly flows into the next. Please remember that your arms are joined to your body and can not flail about independently. Arm postures and movements originate in the Solar Plexus, so use those back and ribcage muscles to support and lift your arms.
Basic Position: Knees bent, head up, ribcage up, bottom tucked
You must practice hand/arm postures in a mirror until they are perfect. Each posture will effect you and your audience differently. Some postures make you look and feel regal, while others come across as sexy, languid or energized. Some give you an opportunity to raise energy, to disperse it to your audience or ground it when necessary. Certain postures are merely cosmetic, framing hip action or framing the face. You will also discover that there are postures that are simply for balance. Some postures may become your “signature” positions, these you might consider your Power Postures, positions of power and strength. If you are ever uncertain of yourself when dancing, assume one of your Power Postures or run through a series of them and you will find your place again, whether you’re dancing a piece of choreography or free-form, in front of an audience or in the privacy of your own living room.
Framing the Eyes
When you “Frame” something you focus attention on that area. You can frame your face for headslides by entwining your hands and arms over your head. S shaped arms frame both the head and one hip. Sometimes framing is knowing where not to put your hands and arms. You don’t want to obscure your crisp hip work with sloppy arm positions. Keep your audience’s perception in mind and place your hands and arms accordingly. There’s no sense in doing something that no one notices, so practice and make good use of framing.
Creating Lyrical Movement and Geometric Patterns
Have you ever waved a smoldering stick about, in the dark, its magical glow tracing fascinating geometric patterns? Or watched children cavorting with sparklers on a warm summer’s night twirling and leaping with Bacchic ecstasy, drawing burning shapes which brand the air? You can create similar effects with hand and arm motions and postures. They can create a delayed line, which the eye will automatically follow. They can weave and define the space around a dancer, mesmerizing an audience, like Medusa’s serpents.
The "One Up - One Down" Pose
Creative visualization is one of the keys to entrancing movement. You must see in “the mind’s eye” the patterns your hands and arms can create. Delicately trace shapes in the air all around you and pay attention to what you’re drawing so your audience will too. Undulating lines, figure 8’s, little balls of energy you move around and finally give to your audience. Draw on nature and pantomime the motion of butterflies, birds, wind or waves. Trace the patterns of the celestial bodies as they chase each other across the sky. You can beckon to your friends, then pull your hands to your heart, accepting their love, then offer your hands back out to them, giving them your love. You might imagine there is a rope from which you hang with one arm, or which you use to pull yourself up from a back bend. Put on a slow piece of music and try to use only your hands and arms to express the melody. When the melody runs up to a high note reach up, reach and stretch, bend those knees and remember to keep your shoulders relaxed and your head up.
Props such as a veil or something you balance on your head can be very helpful in obtaining proficiency of hand and arm movement.
Dancing with a veil can help you learn to spread your wings to their full potential. Holding a veil out and away from you strengthens your arm muscles and helps you learn how to expand yourself outward. Utilizing a veil can teach you how to move so that your arms are complimenting each other, working as partners or twins. When spinning, focusing on manipulating a veil can keep you from experiencing over whelming dizziness. Finally, veils are just stunning when used with framing; you’ll have fun discovering all the possibilities.
Balancing something on your head (trays, swords, baskets, candles, vases etc.) causes you to move with extreme concentration and focus, in other words, isolation. Practice balancing a book on your head and dancing; keep your knees bent and your neck and shoulders loose.
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This page last modified: December 20, 2007