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    Core Belly Dance Moves

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    Join date : 2011-05-30

    Core Belly Dance Moves

    Post  Admin on Wed Jun 01, 2011 5:52 pm

    Listed below are the essential, basic moves that define classic belly dance. By understanding and mastering these core moves, a student has a solid and correct foundation with which to become an accomplished belly dancer in all styles of belly dancing.

    Although there are thousands of authentic moves, the majority of belly dancing derives from foundation moves. The continued practice of these core moves, whether by a beginning student or an experienced belly dancer, is essential for being proficient. Once you master the core moves, the core belly dance techniques will take your belly dancing to higher levels by expanding your awareness of how to be creative and expressive with steps and how to apply them to music.

    A student's best path to learning is as individual as each person's DNA. No single dance instruction method will work equally well for everyone. However, after years of teaching belly dance, I've found that the following method has been very successful in helping students quickly and easily learn how to belly dance.

    The Core Moves
    Most belly dancing is derived from one or more of the following movements, along with their many variations. By practicing the "Basic moves", you'll master the core movement vocabulary for all styles of traditional and modern belly dance.

    Basic Belly Dance Staccato Hip Moves
    There are 3 basic staccato hip moves that create the majority of quick, angular hip articulations that are performed by belly dancers. These moves are most often danced to the rhythm and faster tempos of your belly dance music. By mastering these 3 core belly dance moves, the belly dancer can then go on to learn creative variations of staccato hip moves for all styles of belly dancing.

    Posture and Basic Stance
    Good posture is essential to the art of belly dancing. There are a variety of ways you can stand for your staccato hip moves, but basic stance is the posture used most often by belly dancers.
    Stand with your feet slightly apart, approximately hip or shoulder width, with both feet flat on the ground and your toes pointing forward. Your weight should be evenly distributed between both feet and you should feel solidly connected to the ground. Knees start out slightly bent. Keep them relaxed, flexible, and ready for movement. Hips and pelvis are centered and held level to the ground. The ribcage is pulled gently up with the stomach held comfortably in. Shoulders are relaxed back and down.

    Be aware of your center axis, or vertical body alignment. You can imagine a line running from the top of your head, through the center of your torso, and exiting between your feet. There are many arm positions and arm movements that can accompany basic stance, but when you are first perfecting the core move, it's easiest to just hold the arms in a graceful and comfortable pose. Everyone's body type is unique. If necessary, make subtle adjustments to your stance so that you feel comfortable, centered, and balanced for your belly dancing. The more you relax for these, or other belly dancing moves, the faster you will learn. Never try too hard.

    Belly Dance Isolation Techniques
    It's helpful to learn the core moves by first isolating them: that is, moving only the area of the body necessary for the core move and keeping the rest of the body still. By isolating the move, you can perfect it more easily and later can add other body moves as you increase the complexity of your belly dancing. For the basic staccato hip moves, you can isolate by keeping the upper body still and just moving from the hips down.

    Hip Twist
    Standing in basic stance, isolate your right hip and twist or swivel it forward. Keep the hips level as you twist, putting a little snap in the forward motion, but not too hard at first. When the right hip twists forward, the left hip twists back. You can work the left hip by twisting it forward which causes the right hip to twist back. You can also alternate hips, first twisting one forward, then the other. One side of the body is usually easier to work than the other side, but it's beneficial to practice working both sides. Although our staccato hip movements focus on the hips, they cause a slight reaction in the knees, so don't lock the knees straight or tense them up.

    First of all, one technique for teaching transitions is to relate to each pattern; circle, figure 8, triple circle . . . like you would relate to cursive penmanship compared to printing. Don’t take the pencil off the paper. Make one pattern flow into the next by keeping the tension on an imaginary pencil point. This is where the smooth and hypnotic weight changes exist. You may draw patterns on an imagined surface parallel to the floor with the front of the right hip, and then move that point through the body to a new location — to the back of left hip, for example, and draw on an imagined surface vertically parallel to the front wall or the side wall ( there are many choices) and then flow into drawing a new pattern with another part of the body. The dancer’s task is to focus intention on the pencil points and lead the observer’s awareness three dimensionally inside the body to the next pattern of choice. The dancer expresses and interprets these moments in time, in relation to the music, verse and mood.

    The energy comes from the hips twisting front and back. The legs are straight, but not locked, and we feel the evenness of the movement as the hips moves front and back. With starting hip twists.

    The hip twists from the front corner to the back corner. When the right hip is back, the left hip is front and conversely, left hip front, the right hip is back. In twisting, we take the energy and beat the rhythm of the hip to the back or to the front. A fun exercise is to first twist the right hip back for 8 counts and then twist the hip front for 8 counts, making sure that the hips are moving equally front / back in the box. What is interesting is that the look of the movement doesn’t change but the energy changes from front to back. Do this to both sides and you see that you can really control the hip twists.

    Up and Down Hips
    Standing in basic stance, move your right hipbone straight upward and then downward. Try to move in as vertical a line as possible. Do not twist forward and back or bump out to the side. Keep the upper torso still. When the right hip snaps upward, the left hip goes down. If you work your left hip upward, the right hip moves down. Muscles in the upper legs and lower torso will work together to push and pull the knees up and down, so keep the knees especially relaxed and receptive for this move. If the knees aren't allowed to react, this inhibits the hip action.

    Up Down Hips is a beautiful expression of the music that we use in so many ways. The energy source of this movement is used not only for hip accents but also for snake hips and hip rolls. To feel the source of the hip’s energy truly adds to our movement vocabulary.
    While one hip travels down, the other hip comes up so it is important to realize which hip has the action. When the hips pulls away from the waist, we feel muscles stretching down from the rib cage. When we lift the hip up, we create a muscular contraction. Both are valid movements that we want in our dance vocabulary but there are more possibilities with the hips stretching downward. In using this hip stretching technique, as we speed the movement up we create the shimmy
    Center yourself, weight forward on the balls of your feet and with both knees bent, stretch the hip down from the waist. Make sure that you keep your abdominals pulled in and your gluteals tucked under (no duck’s behinds!) The importance of keeping the gluteals tucked under is that your alignment stays true; the spine remains straight, the hips have a full range of motion, lower back pain is prevented, and as an added benefit, your posture look better and you feel stronger. The knees will move along with the hip’s actions but concentrate and feel the energy from the hips.

    Stretch the hip down, first one and then the other; feel the stretching in the waist. Now, lift each hip up and feel the muscles contracting. Recognize the difference between the energy moving upwards or downwards. (A little hint; if the feet start coming off the floor, you are working the hip up!) An exercise to feel the difference between ‘up’ and ‘down’ energy is to do 8 counts concentrating on each hip stretching down followed by 8 counts on each hip reaching up. Again, feel the stretch and make sure to keep the abdominal and the gluteal muscles active. One of my ladies who had trouble finding the stretch down said that as soon as she really pulled in her stomach, the movement came to her! Remember that the more you do these movements the easier they become and the more natural they look.

    Hip Drops and Hip Lifts are two sides of the same coin. Accenting the Hip-Up or accenting the Hip-Down changes the energy and appearance of the movement. With Hip Drops, the accent is down but the hip must first come into the Lift position to drop down. The reverse is true for the Hip Lifts.

    Hip Drops and Hip Lifts done with proper body alignment give the dancer an increased range of movement. Hips that are accurate and clear can better accentuate and articulate the rhythmic pulse or melody line. The more control we have of the movement, the more vocabulary we have to enhances and expresses the music.

    The Basic Hip Drop:
    First the "classic pose" stance: Abdominals pulled in - gluteal tucked under, Legs together with both legs completely relaxed, knees slightly bent. Standing leg has all the weight - working leg’s foot is one inch forward of the standing leg’s foot and on the ball of the foot with no weight on it.

    Lift the Hip straight up from under the gluteal muscle without twisting forward. Think about the hip kissing the rib cage Stretch the hip into the up position - stretch it into the down position. Feel every moment of the movement.

    Is your working hip’s foot or toe pushing into the floor? Try to lift the hip with your toe a quarter of an inch off the floor. That will help you to put the control in the hip and out of the leg. Is the hip twisting? A twisted hip means the movement is coming from the pelvis and not the hip. By slowly stretching the hip into the lift and drop position, we can concentrate on using the energy of the hip instead of the leg, foot or pelvis.

    Now for the Accent on Drop. Imagine a drum at the base of your gluteal. Use the hip to beat the drum on the bottom of the movement - beat, not with force but with a gentle rebounding action. The hip falls with control to center; that is, your original "classic pose" stance. Don’t allow the hip to go past center but to gently rebound from your imaginary drum. With practice, you can feel every moment of the movement and control it as the hip journeys upward and downward.

    For movements to accentuate particular rhythms (i.e. Beledi 1& 3 4 ) - the 1& doesn’t give you enough time to drop the hip fully. Utilizing a rebound action, we can easily achieve quick accents with a clean technique. Picture a ball hitting the floor. The first bounce falls again to rebound. Our hips are reacting in the same way as the ball. We drop the hip to rebound for the next drop. As a result the second hip lift is not as high as the first and with practice, can be done cleanly and effortlessly.

    You can add variety to this rebound technique by first using a soft then a sharp energy to the hip drop movement, reverse the energy to sharp soft, or by making both energies sharp or soft. Experiment with different rhythms and the different energies on both the drop and the lift. Once you have advanced enough for experimentation, try using your hip drop with a figure 8 hips, or while doing a hip roll, or with a hip circle... the variations abound!

    Oriental Dancers excel in their use and variety of hip movements. Gaining control and exploring the possibilities of these movements brings virtuosity to the dancer in her expression of the music. Creating the movements with absolute assurance comes with practice, practice and more practice! Shimmies, drops, side accents, twists are only some of the hip movements with which you can express rhythm.

    You can make your shimmies have a beat! Indiscriminate shimmies, where you are moving your hips as fast as you can, are fine but to move with more finesse and grace as well as broaden your movement vocabulary, you might want to give the hip a meter. When you bring the hip to its down position, think about hitting a drum with your hip. Each hip has a count as it hits the bottom of the movement. Try to stretch it into the position as opposed to a fast arrival. With a moderate speed of music stretch each hip down to a slow count of eight (Cool. Double your speed and half the movement; i.e., with the full stretch the hip moves about 2 inches, with half the movement is about 1 inch. Again, double the count and half the movement (1& 2&) and one more time. This should produce a loose shimmy that relates to the rhythm with which you are working. Keep the gluteal and thigh muscles loose while shimming; there is a difference between a freeze and a shimmy! To build the stamina necessary to shimmy as long as we want, take a piece of music you enjoy and shimmy the entire length of the piece. It may take a while before you are able to do this but with repeated trials you will soon find that you can shimmy comfortably.

    Hip Bump (Hip Thrust)
    Stand in basic stance, isolate your lower torso, and bump or thrust your right hip straight out to the side and slightly up. It's as though you're bumping a door shut with your hip and putting a little snap into it. Alternate working one hip and then the other. Although you'll favor one hip, practicing by working both hips will give you a more balanced exercise and more options in your dance. Keep the upper torso still and the feet flat. Concentrate on using the muscles that make your hips move; that is, the muscles in the upper leg, pelvic, and buttocks region. Although staccato hip moves cause a reaction in the knees, don't use your knees to initiate the moves.

    Let’s explore the energy sources for the most basic of hip movements, the side-side hip. This movement is a natural extension of how we walk. The hip moves when we transfer weight from one foot to the other and we expand on what is natural. When you walk with one foot in front of the other (ala runway models) we see that the hip sways gently from side to side. Two images of a swaying hip walk are Mae West and Marilyn Monroe. They took from nature and extended it into a special movement uniquely their own. An extended side-side hip.

    For the side-side hips, energy moves in straight lines across the hips reaching toward infinity. We reach from the center of the hip area, approximately where a bikini would rest on our hips. With a straight movement across the body we feel a stretching from the waistline as opposed to putting pressure on the hip joint. The energy stretches the hip away from center. Be very careful not to use the hip joint for creating the side-side movement. It will ultimately cause pain in the joint and the phrase ‘no pain, no gain’ has lost its power over us. It should feel like a stretch, reaching toward infinity.

    To start the movement, stand straight, abs. and glutes in, weight over the balls of the feet, and rest your weight on one foot, again, being careful not to put pressure on the hip joint. Feel your hip, reaching towards the side. If you have difficulty finding the right spot on the hip, gently pull the fabric from your pants at the bikini hip line. Pull straight out and feel the hip stretching away from your center. Keep shifting your weight and stretching the hip.

    Rolling Hips
    There are 3 basic rolling hip moves that are the foundation for the soft, rolling hip patterns that are performed in belly dance. Once these 3 belly dance core moves are learned, the belly dancer can use core techniques to create a variety of movement sequences for all styles of belly dance.

    It's very important to use proper posture in belly dance. There are a variety of ways you can stand for your rolling hip moves, but basic stance is the posture belly dancers use most often. Stand with your feet apart, about shoulder width apart with both feet flat on the ground and your toes pointing forward. You should feel comfortable with your weight equally distributed between both feet. Your knees should be ever so slightly bent but they should feel relaxed, flexible and ready for movement. Your hips and pelvis should be centered and level to the ground. Finally, your ribcage should be pulled gently up with the stomach held but comfortable, and shoulders relaxed.

    Isolation Techniques
    It's easiest to learn the core moves of belly dance by first isolating them. That is, moving only the area of the body necessary for the core belly dance move and keeping the rest of the body still. By isolating the belly dance move, you can perfect it in its most basic form and later add other body moves as you increase the complexity of your belly dancing performance. For the basic belly dance rolling hip moves, you can isolate by keeping the upper body still and just moving from the hips down.

    Belly Dance Hip Figure 8's
    There are 2 basic types of figure 8 hip rolls in belly dance, the horizontal and the vertical. It's best to learn each type in its most basic form before you try learning creative variations.

    Horizontal Hip Figure 8 - Back-To-Forward Version
    The horizontal figure 8 is also called a forward & back or hip-twisting figure 8 in belly dance. Standing in a comfortable basic stance, pretend that a large figure 8 is painted on the floor and you are standing in the middle of it, with one circle of the 8 to your right side and the other circle to your left side. Isolate your hips and twist your right hip back, slide it out to the side and twist it forward. This puts you in position to repeat the belly dance move on your left side - the left hip is now twisted back, and you can slide out to the side, and twist it forward. When you complete the belly dance movement on one hip, it automatically positions the other hip to repeat the movement so that you can continuously flow from one hip to the other in a fluid manner. Keep your hips level to the ground as you trace your figure 8. It's also important to keep the legs and knees relaxed so that your hips have freedom of movement.

    Horizontal Hip Figure 8 - Forward-To-Back
    For a forward-to-back version, you can reverse the direction of your figure 8. Isolate your hips and twist your right hip forward, slide out to the side and twist it back. Repeat on your left hip which is now twisted forward, by sliding it out to the side, and twisting backward. Continue from one hip to the other, making a fluid figure 8.

    Vertical Hip Figure 8 - Down-To-Up Version
    The vertical figure 8 is also called an up & down figure 8. To do the down-to-up version of the vertical figure 8, pretend that you are facing a wall with an infinity symbol painted on it. It looks like a figure 8 lying on its' side with one loop of the 8 to the right and the other loop to the left.

    Assume the basic belly dance stance and push your right hip down, slide it out to the side, lift it up, and then pull it back to its starting point in your centered basic stance. Repeat with the left hip. Push the left hip down, slide it out to the side, lift it up, and bring it back to center. The legs and knees will be pulled up and down with this move, so keep them flexible. Your feet will also be pulled up and down, with your heels coming up off the floor.

    Let your heel lift up as the hip on that side of the body lifts up. As the hip rolls downward, the heel drops flat to the ground. The same thing repeats on the other side of the body. Make sure you do not twist your hips in a vertical figure 8; instead your hips will face forward at all times. Practice until the movement flows gracefully from one side to the other.

    Vertical Hip Figure 8 - Up-To-Down Version
    For the up-to-down version of the vertical hip figure 8 (sometimes called a 'Maya' figure Cool, you can reverse the direction of your hip move. Your hips will now start by lifting up, sliding out to the side, dropping down, and going back to center and repeating smoothly on the other side. It is possible to do this movement with the feet flat at all times. Rather than allowing the heels to lift up, keeping the feet flat is more difficult for many bellydancers and forces you to lower your center of gravity by bending your knees more and to use the upper leg and lower torso muscles more deeply.

    Belly Dance Hip Circle:
    In the basic hip circle, we use our hips to trace a small to medium sized circle that is horizontal to the ground. You can stand in a basic belly dance stance, but a straight leg stance is often easier when you are first learning the hip circle. The straight leg stance is the same as the basic stance, but with the knees held straight (but never locked). In the stance of your choice, isolate your hips and slide them out to your right side; push them back and to your left side; push them forward and to your right side again as you complete your circle. Keep your upper torso vertically aligned to the floor as you trace the circle and try to keep your hips as level as you comfortably can. Keep repeating the move sliding to your right side, then back, to the left side, and then forward until you achieve a smooth continuous circle.

    Vertical Belly Dance Hip Circle (Bicycle Hips)
    A vertical hip circle is also called bicycle hips. Isolate your hips in basic stance and lift your right hip up, roll forward, push down, push back, and then up to your starting point, tracing a circle that is vertical to the floor. In this movement, your heel will be lifted up off the floor as the hip rolls up and pushed down as the hip rolls down, similar to pedaling a bicycle. This movement is best viewed from the working side of body, and unlike our figure 8's, the circle is usually perform on one hip only. However, for the best exercise benefits, practice the move on both the right and left hips. Whichever hip is the easier one to work is the one you'll use most often while belly dancing to music. All circular movement in belly dance can be done clockwise or counter-clockwise. Being proficient with both directions gives your circular moves a wider range of variation for your belly dancing and better exercise benefits.

    Basic Ribcage Circles (Chest Circles)
    There are 3 basic ribcage circles that form the core of a bellydancer’s rolling or wave-like upper torso moves, including belly rolls and undulations. The 3 basic ribcage circles result in 3 different types of belly rolling motion and are usually applied to melody and/or slower tempos of belly dance music. Practicing these basic core moves will also assist in mastering the angular ribcage techniques of belly dance.

    There are a variety of stances and postures that can be used for all belly dancing upper torso moves. Beginning belly dance students can benefit by learning the basic ribcage circles in isolation, with no movement from the waist down. For this, we assume the straight leg stance is easiest for most bellydancers.

    Stand with your feet slightly apart, approximately hip or shoulder width, with both feet flat on the floor and your toes pointing forward. Your weight should be evenly distributed between both feet and you should feel solidly connected to the ground. Knees are straight, but never locked tight. Hips and pelvis are centered and held level to the ground. The ribcage is pulled gently up with the stomach held comfortably in. Shoulders are relaxed back and down.

    Your head and torso are vertically aligned to the floor forming a center axis, or vertical column, running from the top of your head, through the center of your torso, and exiting at a point between your feet.

    Horizontal Ribcage Circle
    For a horizontal ribcage circle, assume your straight leg stance and pretend that you’re standing in the middle of a circle painted on the floor. Isolate your ribcage and trace the circle by focusing on the movement coming mainly from your diaphragm area, which is located below your ribs and above your navel.

    Start by sliding your ribcage to the right, then slide forward, then slide to the left side, slide to the back, and then back to your starting point. Keep your shoulders and ribcage level to the ground as you trace your circle. Think of balancing imaginary water glasses on your shoulders to help you keep your upper torso level to the ground. Practice tracing a small ribcage circle until you are comfortable with the correct technique and flow of energy. With practice you can make your circles larger if you wish, but small moves are still great exercise and look wonderful. As you work the diaphragm area and ribcage in a circular motion, a side-to-side belly rolling action is created in the abdominal area.

    Any circular movement can be done in a direction that is either clockwise or counter-clockwise. You’ll find that one direction will be easier for you than the other and that is the direction you’ll use most often in your belly dancing. It’s not necessary to master both directions in your circular belly dance movements, but by practicing both you’ll gain greater exercise benefits and more variety in your belly dancing.

    Diagonal Ribcage Circle
    In the diagonal ribcage circle, also called a clock circle, pretend that you are facing a round clock on the wall in front of you. Standing in your straight leg stance, trace the outline of the clock by isolating your ribcage and sliding the diaphragm and ribcage to the right side, up, to the left side, down, and back to your starting point. Round the movement off, making a smooth circle. When the ribcage rolls upward you are stretching your muscles and when you roll downward, you are relaxing the muscles. This results in a diagonal belly rolling action.

    Vertical Ribcage Circle
    The vertical ribcage circle is very important because it’s the foundation move for upper torso undulations and the basic belly roll. Standing in a straight leg stance, isolate the diaphragm area and ribcage and stretch forward, up, relax back and down. As you roll forward and up, you are stretching. As you roll back and down, you are relaxing. Keep the shoulders relaxed and let the diaphragm area do most of the work as you roll forward, up, back, and down. Keep practicing until you can make the movement a smooth, continuous circle. Notice the vertical belly rolling action that is developing.

    Vertical Ribcage Circle With Torso Undulation (Upper Torso Undulation)
    Bellydancers use the vertical ribcage circle most often in the form of an upper torso undulation (sometimes called a “camel” move). Standing in a basic stance (same as the straight leg stance but with the knees starting out slightly bent and flexible) perform the vertical ribcage circle and allow the motion to flow from the upper torso all the way down to the ground. The lower torso is pushed and pulled in the opposite direction of your rolling ribcage. Start in basic stance and roll in your vertical ribcage circle, keeping your hips, pelvis, legs, and knees very relaxed. If you are sufficiently relaxed, the lower part of the body will react naturally and automatically in opposition to the movement of the rolling ribcage. When the ribcage rolls forward, the pelvis rolls back. When the ribcage rolls up, the knees straighten. As the ribcage rolls back, the pelvis rolls forward. And when the ribcage rolls down, the knees bend and you are back at your starting point in basic stance. Don’t think too hard about what the entire body is doing. Concentrate on the ribcage rolling forward, up, back, and down, and allow the energy to flow freely through the torso and down into the legs and feet. The reasons people have difficulty learning stomach rolls often include one or more of the following:

    · Many belly dance teachers don't know how to explain them effectively.
    · Many people have weak abdominal muscles. A sedentary lifestyle can cause this. It's difficult to operate a muscle that is weak.
    · Some people don't have much flexibility in these muscles. The muscles need to be loose and able to flow when standing upright.
    · The person has only used the muscles to pull herself out of a chair, or to keep her balanced when standing upright. She doesn't know how to link her brain to those muscles to give them conscious commands.
    The exercises below are designed to overcome the above barriers.

    Basic Arm Head and Shoulder Moves:
    One thing that polished dancers have are great arms. Great in expression, creating line and in directing the audiences’ gaze. Too often, when a dancer is intent on remembering choreography, nervous or just simply not aware, the arms suffer. Hands broken at the wrist, chicken wings or puppy dog arms are the result. These dance hints deal with exploring the width and range of arm movements and expanding it towards infinity. One solution is a thought process - first, that the hands are attached to the arms. It’s a simple thought but as you look at your arms in the mirror, do your hands droop or do they extend in the same line as the arm? If they are drooping, use the energy from your fingers to extend the line of your arm being careful not to flex the hand itself. The finger should be grouped together and relaxed. And there’s the key; maintaining energy while being relaxed! A few simple exercises to try: (1) With arms relaxed at you sides, draw the arms up to an overhead pose and back down again while maintaining the extended line of hand and arm. (2) Imagine yourself in a pool of water that is chest level - gently twist your upper torso with open arms and use your fingertips to touch the water and draw circles that make fountains of splashed water. Work both exercises while being in full awareness of the extended lines.

    We talked about using the thought process "hands are attached to the arms." In other words, create one long line with the arm and hand. Moving arms through space with energy is our next step. The source of energy comes from the triceps muscle and the finger tips - not from the whole arm. A lifting of the arms like a bird in flight helps you to soar as a dancer! By combining the awareness of the lifting energy from triceps and the expanding energy from the finger tips we create stronger, more expressive line for dance. An exercise to try: stand with your arms totally relaxed and fingertips resting lightly on the front of your thighs. Expand your triceps lightly (the feeling of letting air flow under your armpits) and then relax. Make sure the movement is from the triceps and not from the elbows and be careful not to roll the shoulders forward. Once you know the movement is originating from the triceps, start to think of a large balloon expanding within your arms. As the balloon expands, the arms rise with a slightly rounded appearance. The fingertips draw that same balloon with the energy reaching toward infinity. Try this type of lift with snake arms. It’s a lot more work, but you will feel much more power in the movement.

    Belly Dance Arm Waves
    Arm waves are semi-circular, wave-like motions of a belly dancer's arms and hands. Although the basic arm wave is done in a complete half-circle pattern, belly dancers will more often use an abbreviated version by moving the arms in less than a complete half-circle. However, if you start by practicing the complete half-circle movement, you'll strengthen your arms for a wider range of motion in freestyle arm moves and other belly dancing arm techniques. Arm waves and arm ripples are most often done to slower tempos of melodic belly dancing music.

    Belly Dance Forward Arm Wave
    To do a forward arm wave, use your arms to trace a full half circle in front of your body, with each arm moving in opposition to each other. Stand in good posture with the upper torso vertically aligned to the floor and the ribcage held comfortably upright.

    Starting with your right arm, lift it up directly in front of you until the hand is above the head and then bring it down until your hand is down at your side. It's important to keep the arms, elbows, and wrists relaxed so that you can get a wave-like motion - you don't want your arms to be stiff and straight. The wrist flips up and back at your upper-most point above your head, and then will flip down and forward as you bring it to your lower-most position. Now try the same move with your left arm. Once you get the feel of doing it with both arms individually, you can try the full movement using both arms moving in opposition to each other. Bring the right arm up so the hand is above your head and the wrist flips. As you start to bring the right arm down, the left arm goes up, and vice versa. When one arm is waving up, the other is waving down. To get the correct flow of energy for many belly dance arm movements, you can create resistance by imagining you are doing them under water.

    Belly Dance Side-To-Side Arm Wave
    The side-to-side arm wave is similar to the forward arm wave, but the semi-circle is traced on each side of your body. Standing in good posture, raise your right arm out to your side, then above your head where your wrist will flip up and back. As your right arm goes down, the left arm rises up and vise versa. Try not to think too hard about what you are doing, but instead relax and feel the flow of energy going from your shoulders, through your arms, wrists, and fingers. The trickiest part of belly dance arm waves is to relax enough to allow the wrists to flip naturally up and back at the upper most point of the move, and then down and forward at the lowest point. With enough repetitions, a movement will become part of your muscle memory and then every part of the move will become automatic when belly dancing.

    Shoulder Rotation With Arm Ripple (Snake Arms)
    The arm ripple, sometimes called snake arms, is most visible in the arms, but is actually created in the shoulders in a motion that spirals out through the arms, hands, and fingertips. Start with one arm held horizontally out to the side. Rotate the shoulder in a small circle that is vertical to the ground. The shoulder will roll forward, up, back, and down. Allow the energy to spiral out from the shoulder through the elbow, wrist, and hand, exiting out at your fingertips. Try the other shoulder - forward, up, back, and down. To do the full movement, coordinate the shoulders so that when one is rolling forward, the other shoulder is rolling back. It takes practice to get a smooth flowing action from one shoulder to the other. Remember to keep the elbows, wrists, and hands relaxed to allow the energy to flow from the shoulder through the elbow and wrist, and out through the fingertips.

    Belly dancers can do two things with their arms while they are belly dancing. 1) They can hold their arms in a graceful pose to frame their other body moves. 2) Belly dancers can move their arms either as arm movements alone or added to other body movements. When a belly dancer moves her arms she can use specific arm techniques.

    Beginning belly dancers usually are encouraged to hold their arms in an attractive pose when they are first learning the all-important core torso moves of belly dance. Once these core torso belly dancing moves are mastered with the arms held still, the belly dancer can then learn to add, or layer, basic arm moves and variations or freestyle arm patterns to her other body movements.

    Belly Dance Arm Poses
    In belly dancing, the arms are rarely held with the elbows locked. Even in the more angular arm poses, there is usually a slight bend in the elbows and the degree of the bend is determined by the belly dancer herself. The goal is to hold your arms in a graceful pose that compliments your body type and fits well with your belly dance music. The belly dancer has a choice of the levels, directions, and shapes she can create with her arms. The palms of her hands may face any direction (up, down, forward, or back) and her fingers can be held close together or spread slightly apart, with all the fingers held flat or one or more fingers elevated. In almost all belly dance arm poses the arms, hands, and fingers are held soft, but strong, neither overly rigid or nor too angular. There are many choices for beautiful arm poses and listed below are a number of concepts for the aspiring belly dancer.

    Belly Dance Arm Level Positions
    1) Low Level. Arms are held below the waist with one or both arms positioned in front of the body, to the sides, or slightly in back of the body. This is a 'rest' position and is helpful when the arms are tired and need to be revived.

    2) Medium Level. Arms are held at a level between the waist and shoulders with one or both arms positioned in front of the body, to the side, or slightly in back of the body.

    3) High Level. Arms are held above the shoulders with one or both arms positioned straight upward, forward of, or to the side of the body.

    4) Mixed Levels. One arm is held at one level while the other arm is at a different level.

    Geometric Shapes
    Horizontal Arms - arms are held out to each side, horizontal to the ground, at a medium level (right arm held out to the right side, the left arm held out to the left side). This is the 'basic arm pose' used most commonly by beginning belly dance students.
    Parallel Arms - arms are held parallel to each other pointing upward (vertically up), downward (vertically down), or forward in front of the body.

    Right Angle Arms - one arm is held vertically upward, and the other arm is held out to the side of the body ('classic arm pose'), or one arm is held upward and the other is held pointing forward in front of the body. Other possible right angle configurations would be holding one arm forward in front of the body and the other arm pointing out to the side.

    Circular Arms - arms are posed in a soft circular shape (like you are holding a very large ball) with the arms held vertically up, or held forward in front of the body, or held vertically down. Bellydancers may also hold only one arm in a circular shape, while the other arm is held in another shape or pose.

    When a belly dancer uses her arms and hands to trace improvised, flowing shapes and designs in the space around her body, she is using a technique called freestyle arm movements. A belly dancer can move her arms and hands in freestyle movement patterns while the rest of her body is still, or more commonly, she can add freestyle arm and hand movements while her torso, head, or legs are doing their own moves. The best way to become proficient at improvising with freestyle arm patterns is to master the basic arm moves of belly dance. These basic belly dance arm techniques will exercise the arms in a full range of motion, making the arms strong and flexible for improvised movement patterns of the belly dancer's choice. It's also essential to watch accomplished bellydancers perform to get ideas for the types of arm movement shapes and designs that will best compliment your personal style of belly dance.

    The Foundation
    First, it's helpful to consider a couple of concepts:

    1. At a very fundamental level, Western (European and North American) dance is what your limbs (arms and legs) do: traveling steps, high kicks, leaps, sweeping arm movements, etc.

    2. At a very fundamental level, Oriental dance (belly dance) is what your core muscles do, and the moving limbs are there to frame and support the core.
    Avoiding the Western Accent.

    Here are some guidelines for making your arm movements fit the aesthetic of Oriental dance, to eliminate your Western accent:

    1. Arm movements should originate from the torso, usually the upper back.

    2. Avoid standing still and moving just the arms alone. For example, don't stand still and do 8 counts of snake arms.

    3. Use the arms to create frames that showcase what the torso is doing, particularly the hips.

    4. Learn to think of the music as containing "sentences" which consist of a noticeable beginning, middle, and end. Think of your arms as flowing with these sentences, with a movement beginning as the music begins a sentence, swelling to express energy as the phrase swells, and tapering off as the phrase reaches its end.

    5. Avoid holding the arms outstretched to each side at shoulder level in the "crucifix" position. This position will cause your dance to look very un-Middle Eastern.

    6. Avoid using "Pharonic" arms - the arm positions that have elbows and wrists bent at right angles. These too are a Western invention.

    7. Avoid letting the arms linger in the ballet arm positions of first through fifth. The arms may pass through these positions, but posing them in these positions for any length of time is very Western.


      Current date/time is Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:10 am