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For ABSOLUTE Beginners...

"For Beginners"
(ZAGHAREET! (Nov/Dec 2007)
by Anthea Kawakib Poole

In the last two issues we went over many ideas for improvisation, so working backwards as I sometimes do, let’s get more basic and go over a couple of specific moves and poses, how you put them together; and (drum roll please)... transitions!

A POSE is static position of the body, a pause in movement. Pose = pause = position.

Here’s my Basic Pose 1:

From that position you can quickly transition to a Diagonal Pose by doing a “heel-lift pivot” - just like it sounds: lift your heels and pivot on the balls of your feet to face either front  corner (assuming you’re in a typical box-like room) and set your heels back down. If you keep your knees bent like you’re should, you won’t lose your balance. See, there’s a reason for all these “rules” - they make things work better!

Now that we’re in this position I’d like to go over an advanced move I often teach my Beginners. (Why do I teach Beginners “advanced moves”? My thinking is we’d better lay the foundation right away for advanced moves like Torso Undulations, the Vertical Figure-8, and of course the poor Shimmy -- because these are the universal “belly dancer moves” people see on TV or videos and then want to try at home. And that’s where things can start to go horribly WRONG)
So, the Torso Undulation (remember we’re in the “Diagonal Pose” now, facing the front corner):

  1. Shift your weight from your “front foot” to your “back foot” (the “back foot” is the one on the side of your body that’s closest to the audience or mirror). Do a few repetitions until you’re comfortable shifting weight (knees bent).
  2. Slow down now and add a change in your body position when on each foot: when you’re on the front foot ARCH your back; when you “change weight” to the back foot, reverse that body position into a CONTRACTION of your torso, like you’re rounding your back into a “C”. Do a few repetitions to get used to the feeling of both changing weight and body position.
  3. To make a complete torso undulation you’ll need to add two “mini-moves” of the torso on each foot: on the front foot, add a “mini-arch” before the full arch; and on the back foot, add a “mini-contraction” before the full contraction. That makes two body positions on each foot, for a total of four (4 body movements on 2 steps or weight-changes).
  4. My “formula” or “recipe” for the Torso Undulation is “ribs FRONT on the front foot, ribs BACK on the back foot.”  So simple!

The key to a successful Torso Undulation in this Diagonal Pose is a quick weight/body change (with your knees BENT!), and smoothly flowing through the four different body positions. Typical mistakes include letting the ribs come down too soon (from the arch) before changing weight; and/or involving the shoulders in the contraction. So keep your ribs lifted until you change weight; and keep the shoulders relaxed when contracting the torso.

Of course you won’t get it all exactly right the first time, but if you train your body to do those poses right s-l-o-w-l-y, you will soon be comfortable flowing through this Advanced Move.  There are many other advanced movements that incorporate this “formula” (of the torso undulation) so needless to say, start to learn it correctly now and you’ll be glad you did.

What About Transitions?

Moving from one position (pose, pause) to another is a transition.  In the advanced move above, do you remember the “transition”? You didn’t notice it? There’s a little transition in your torso undulation, when you change weight from the front foot to the back foot (while you’re also changing your body position). There’s even littler transitions (those “mini-moves”) within the torso movement itself. That’s why that move is “advanced” - there’s a lot of transitions!

A bigger, more noticeable transition would be, for instance, between a Torso Undulation and (you name it). Most big transitions involve a little time-juggling - one movement has to “give away” some of it’s usual TIME to the next movement to make a smooth transition. Not always, but often.

We All Have TIME, but Can You Find it in the Music?

And now a word about “timing”, counting, tempo etc. Tempo = time.

Your regular tempo is like a steady walk: Step, Step, Step, Step - just like when you walk into class. Now go into “slow motion” and only take TWO Steps instead of four in the same amount of time. THAT’S how slow I want you to “count” as you do the torso movement above. If you try to do it your “regular tempo” I guarantee you won’t get it right. So slow down!

So many Beginners seem to be in a rush doing movements. Maybe because we all have so much to do each day, we carry that stressed-out “rushing” feeling into the classroom. But there’s no rush! Enjoy your time in class - be a little “slow” for a change.

Give Me Your Feedback

If you’re a regular reader you know I write about all kinds of dance-related subjects. I’ve noticed that when my subject matter is esoteric (like energy or personality) people tell me they really like the articles that focus on more “foot on the ground” subjects (like this issue’s column); BUT at the same time, when I write about concrete subjects people then tell me they like when I write about the other issues (spirituality, etc.). Funny! I’d love to hear what YOU think - email me (see my contact info below).

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