Magazine (Nov/Dec 2011)
by Anthea (Kawakib)
Basic Belly Dance Arms... on a Professional
The previous three articles expounded on the basic Arm Positions, Variations, emotional meanings; and the transitions between poses so that you had arm MOVEMENT happening which you could explore as well.
For Oriental dancing, these positions are the foundation of the style, but touches of folkloric styles or other related dance forms (Indian, Spanish) add unique flavor to the arm poses and movements we use in Oriental dancing too. I realize I’m primarily focusing on the Egyptian version of bellydance and ignoring other Mediterranean countries that enjoy this art form but I want to stick with my own area of expertise rather than pretending to be an across-the-board expert.
I uploaded a recent performance video to youtube of one of my Intermediate class choreographies so my students could practise with it at home. This choreography (“Layali”) uses a lot of Basic Arm Positions with some “beledi” variations (hand to the head); and because it’s a “pop” number the arms aren’t as elegant as Raks Sharki; they’re a bit more relaxed although not as much as they would be in Shaabi or folklore. In Sharki I usually would NOT touch myself but in the context of pop culture I feel it’s okay especially as this is an emotional song (aren’t they all!). Also, my ego wants me to ask you to excuse a bit of stiffness as my ribs were still sore from a horseback riding accident!
Although this particular number is too fast for beginners you could take a few of the combinations to practise the arm positions. When you do, watch what I did in the transitions and see if those transitions are comfortable for you. Some combinations you could try:
• the back-step with hip lifts (after the large hip circle). The Arms simply change to co-ordinate with the lifting hip.
• the pivoting hip drops (after the above combination). The arms don’t change between the last (fourth) back step and the pivoting hip drops, but there is a hand circle in the transition. This is a good demonstration of WHEN to use the hand circle.
• the travel step with hip twist (the entrance step). Since this alternates (right left right; then left right left), the arms have to change to match which hip is twisting, so you can see a transition that is long and slow during the walking steps before each hip twist. If you notice, you can also see there’s a momentary touch of “tension release” in the arms after each hip twist.
What I like about this number is that, because the arm positions are so static or stationary, you WILL be able to see them clearly; and now that you’ve experimented with poses and transitions (which was where we left off in the last article), you’ll have fun recognizing the swoops, hand circles, slow arm paths, etc. that are in between the poses. It also repeats a LOT so you have plenty of time to see the patterns.
When you’ve dissected dancing by looking at combinations, moves, and the transitions between them, then dance as a whole begins to make more sense to you visually. Are you able to see the arm poses that different dancers use, and what each dancer does in the transitions between moves? Transitions are where you often catch dancers’ individual style and personality. Now go watch some of your favorite performers and check out their arms!
- VIDEO: Layali Pop