Zaghareet! Magazine (Jul/Aug
by Anthea Kawakib Poole
Last article we delved into ARMS, a topic I personally love! Once you understand arm positions and how to move from one to the next, having beautiful dancing arms is easy. What I wrote at the end of that article bears repeating:
“NEVER drill hips, shoulders, or any other part of
the body without having a specific position for your arms...
Arms should always have energy and be in a lovely position”
So what are those lovely positions every belly dancer should know? Look at the drawing my daughter did for me years ago to illustrate my Dance Tips booklet.
Figure 1 shows what I consider the three
“basic” arm positions. These could be termed “low, medium,
high”; but I usually refer to them in reference to the body,
that is, “at hips, shoulder level, overhead”). Notice the elbows
- like the knees - are always softly bent.
(Figure 1 below by L.H.P, reproduced from Kawakib's Dance Tips)
Beginners should do their belly dance drills while holding these arm positions. During drills your focus should include every part of your body, not just the part that’s moving. As I tell my students, NOT moving is just as important as moving! After these positions become habitual to you--when your arms automatically go there when you drill or dance--then you can “let them go”...not into chaos, but into other beautiful positions and movements. There’s a better chance of having “good arms” when they come from these basic positions.
Here are two popular variations of
the arm positions in Figure 1:
Check out the next arm
position in Figure 2
(unfortunately, this is what it looks like when I draw):
(Figure 2 below, Diagonal Arms)
This “diagonal line” arm position is popular in belly dance but it’s one of the hardest to get right. Both arms should match in both bend, angle, and even which way the palm of the hand is turned. In beginners, one arm is often on the diagonal while the other is quite noticeably off, but even when looking at themselves in a mirror, beginners often don’t see this discrepancy. “Dancer-eyes” can be developed easily though, with just a little awareness and focus.
Moving the arms from one
position to another brings us to the world of transitions - the
short but crucial time between “real” movements. In my Basics
classes we often just drill moving from one body position (also
known as a pose) to
another, over and over until the TRANSITION becomes flawless.
Sometimes my more advanced students need the “transition drill”
too, but less frequently. What we’re looking for is clean
movement between positions, while the body stays in the correct
position. There can be NO extraneous body movement, weight
shifting, arm path, etc. Clean transitions between movements is
an art in itself, as any experienced dancer can attest.
Advanced and professional dancers often have their own way with transitions. Their unique individual style often shows in how they treat this little space-time. I don’t mean every single movement transition but usually the “bigger” transitions signaling a break in the musical phrase. They might do a little kick, hair/head twitch, larger arm movement; dip into plie, etc. The next time you watch professional dancers on YouTube, keep this in mind and see if you notice any special transitions in between melodic phrases. Fun, isn’t it? Read more on beautiful arms in the next article!