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Thread: Arm movements-

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    Junior Member lizelda_navi's Avatar
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    Default Arm movements-

    I'm stuck in the position of instructor for my college's troupe and am woefully not cut-out for such a gig, but unfortunately, I was still the best man for the job by far... I would like to spend some time teaching my students different arm movements as the basic moves we know are limited to about 6 from our previous instructor.

    I found a wonderful series of instructional videos on youtube that gave me about 25+ new arm moves but I was wondering if there were any websites that give a list of moves and break them down? I have another long list of them that I got from the All About Arms with Ruby dvd promo on youtube but I can't find any information on how to actually do any of them.

    Any instructional sites you can offer would be greatly appreciated- thanks!

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    V.I.P. Yame's Avatar
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    I've never thought to count different "arm moves." There are different frames you can hold your arms on, using varying levels of energy and bending the elbow at varying degrees, and then there are ways to transition between these frames, using different paths and directions and again with varying levels of energy and making different shapes by angling the joints in different ways.

    I don't think of these as each being a unique "arm move" that I can name and jot down on a list, but as being natural paths that my arms take as I am dancing.

    I don't think of my arms as doing moves, per se. I think of my arms as flowing from one place to another in order to add artistry and expression to my dance.

    PS.: If you want to find out how to do the "arm moves" on Ruby's DVD, how about buying her DVD?
    Last edited by Yame; 11-06-2011 at 04:16 AM.

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    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lizelda_navi View Post
    I would like to spend some time teaching my students different arm movements as the basic moves we know are limited to about 6 from our previous instructor.
    Hate to ask - but why? Belly dance isn't about arms - it's about hips and feet and shoulders (in about that order I'd think). Possibly you weren't taught more arms because there is so much more important things to learn - such as isolating your hips - or moving between arm positions - which are more about framing than dancing.

    Basic "positions" would include beledi second (low, bent, elbows to the back and in front of the body, orientale second (more like shoulder level, elbows back, held by the back), a range of hip frames, an L (either forward and to the side or slightly rotated), the folkloric head touch positions, classical (curved above the head) and gestures. The trick is never to set in any one position but be relaxed and to flow between positions smoothly. This includes shoulder rolls, wrist and hand flexes, subtle position changes (like a 10 degree movement of one arm in second when travelling)

    In addition there are some kitch movements which I wouldn't spend too much time on. Some I use for isolation training eg alternately bringing the hands in while doing a hip rock and making sure the hips don't start twisting - but I would hope none of my students would use it seriously in a dance!

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    Member Avariel's Avatar
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    Arms are actually one of the most important things about your performance. I've seen talented dancers totally kill a performance (not in a good way) because despite their sharp bellydance moves their arms flop around like dead salmon. It's a much overlooked aspect of dance, and it has everything to do with poise and your stage presence. And unfortunately it happens a lot; we all sort of have weird arm "quirks" that manifest when we're concentrating on hard movements or choreography, and without a really good drilled basic muscle memory in our arms they tend to look sad and deflated.

    I would actually look towards ballet for "basic" arm positions to start your students off with; ATS uses similar posturing with a few tweaks on hand positions to give a solid frame to every movement. If you can present a basic 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th position arm drills for your students, based on ballet positions of the same names (or numbers) it'll develop that very crucial muscle memory that'll ensure no matter WHAT sort of arm choreography it'll always look good and frame nicely. I don't know a specific website off the top of my head, but here's sort of the comparison that I'm talking about:



    you can see the similar frame, but the differences that make the styles their own; obviously you don't want a strict ballet positioning, but if you're dancing cabaret as opposed to tribal, the hand positions especially would transfer over almost exactly from ballet, as well as the arm lines. I think if you drill students in basic arm positions enough, it'll become instinctive, and when there's a choreography or dance that calls for an uplifted arm, there'll be a drilled pattern and shape that's already there in their muscle memory that'll ensure their arms will look graceful and beautiful even if they're not even thinking about it.

    I don't have an actual site to give you but if you google these arm positions and then tweak them for your purposes, it'll have the same effect. There'll be differing opinions, but in my own personal one, arms are so, SO important; nothing worse than a dead fish floppy arm on an otherwise beautifully talented dancer.

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    Super Moderator gisela's Avatar
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    I must agree with Yame about the natural arm paths.
    I also agree with Avariel that arms are very important in a performance. But... I don't think it is correct to say that ballet arms transfer almost exactly over to Oriental. I can very easily spot an oriental dancer doing ballet arms and it's not something I prefer. And Tribal arms are VERY different.

    Lizelda_navi: It sounds, from your post, like you aren't terribly experienced with Oriental Dance. Why not settle for not so many variations for a while and practice to do them extremely well? Like learning to keep the arms up properly and not let them sag or become very fluid in the wrists etc etc

    I can't think of any arm move that is very complicated to actually understand. The difficult thing is keeping energy in your hands and making teh arms look powerful and fluid.

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    V.I.P. Yame's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gisela View Post
    I must agree with Yame about the natural arm paths.
    I also agree with Avariel that arms are very important in a performance. But... I don't think it is correct to say that ballet arms transfer almost exactly over to Oriental. I can very easily spot an oriental dancer doing ballet arms and it's not something I prefer. And Tribal arms are VERY different.
    I agree with most of your post, but let me nitpick a little bit

    I don't think anyone is saying ballet arms can transfer almost exactly into belly dance, but to be perfectly honest with you I do think ballet is the best dance to get inspiration from for belly dance arms, if you are not getting enough of that in the classroom.

    As much as a lot of belly dancers want to run away from this fact, ballet has influenced raqs sharqi, especially when it comes to the arms. Badia Masabni looked to ballet for inspiration on how to "stagify" Egyptian social dance, Samia Gamal took inspiration from ballet in the way she used her arms. Many of Mahmoud Reda's dancers who went on to become influential belly dance teachers had training in ballet and did adapt concepts from it to use in belly dance, and many of today's Egyptian stars had ballet training.

    So the whole reason I decided to cross-train in ballet isn't because I want to Westernize the dance... for me that push came from within Egypt itself. I think ballet training when used properly actually makes this dance more Egyptian, not less. This doesn't mean we should be doing battements, jumps and pirouettes but it does mean we should work to have polished upper body and arm carriage, dynamic arms and hands with purpose and energy, good projection and presence, coordination to move the arms while doing other things with the rest of our bodies (without obstructing them with our arms), strong ankles to sustain us on a correct demi-pointe, and many other things which ballet helps us achieve in a much shorter time than if we take solely belly dance classes and have no background in other dances.

    Here is an example of such an arms adaptation. For reference, here is a photo of the ballet positions: Idaho Rhythm Ballet In a ballet chainé turn, the dancer is spinning towards a certain direction, and she opens her arms from first position and closes them back into first position as she turns, which greatly aids in the turning process.
    Here is an example of that in video. It looks like a video of a class being held maybe in a high school gym, these look like beginners and they are doing it very slowly, but I think it gets my point across: Chaînés - YouTube

    This would look much too "formal" in a belly dance context, so it doesn't work, but a very simple and natural way to adapt it is to have the arms bent at the elbow, with the forearms/hands pointing up in something like a 45 degree angle (or even less), instead of the ballet first position, but still do the whole opening and closing thing. This is how I figured out to adapt it, here is how it looks on me: Yame Performs at Art of The Belly - YouTube (just watch from 1:16 to 1:22). I had seen it somewhere before I decided to use it, couldn't quite put my finger on it...

    Well it turns out that when Raqia Hassan (who has taught most of the Egyptian stars today) does a chainé turn, this is how she does it. Watch Raqia show her usual chainé, from 0:00 up until 0:13 Raqia Hassan (part 3) - YouTube

    So, it looks different, but you can see that it's an adaptation. There are many other such adaptations in belly dance which maybe we take for granted, but it doesn't change the fact that they are there.
    Last edited by Yame; 11-06-2011 at 03:24 PM.

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    Member Avariel's Avatar
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    I think Yame said it for me, and did so with much more eloquence and grace than I could have mustered. Essentially, I'm not saying that the arms transfer over EXACTLY, although sometimes the hand positions do (extended fingers with the middle finger and thumb somewhat pressing towards each other, like you're holding an egg or thimble between those two fingers.) But they do provide a very solid foundation and shape to then adjust for the particular dance style you're dancing.

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    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Avariel View Post
    Arms are actually one of the most important things about your performance. I've seen talented dancers totally kill a performance (not in a good way) because despite their sharp bellydance moves their arms flop around like dead salmon.
    Yes - but they don't "dance" their arms - I often see inexperienced dancers doing no hip work to speak of - or very sloppy stuff - with arms going through intricate movements - lotus hands, fish, snake arms, etc which they have obviously spent hours perfecting - missing the whole point of belly dance.

    What is needed is a small number of good positions that the dancer can move between in graceful and strong manner. One thing by beginners will always be picked up for will be dead salmon - even in their improv.

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    Member Avariel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kashmir View Post
    Yes - but they don't "dance" their arms - I often see inexperienced dancers doing no hip work to speak of - or very sloppy stuff - with arms going through intricate movements - lotus hands, fish, snake arms, etc which they have obviously spent hours perfecting - missing the whole point of belly dance.

    What is needed is a small number of good positions that the dancer can move between in graceful and strong manner. One thing by beginners will always be picked up for will be dead salmon - even in their improv.
    I agree with you. I think the point of the original post was a request for ways to drill these good arm positions. These basic, fundamental positions are often overlooked and shouldn't be, which was one of the points in my post. There should always be a good balance in a choreography, and just waving your arms around for 5 minutes usually doesn't do it for an audience, either I just think too many teachers don't even drill them, and my first bellydance teacher didn't even mention arms at all, so it being neglected or being seen as "not important" usually turns into something floppy this way comes

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    V.I.P. Yame's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kashmir View Post
    Yes - but they don't "dance" their arms - I often see inexperienced dancers doing no hip work to speak of - or very sloppy stuff - with arms going through intricate movements - lotus hands, fish, snake arms, etc which they have obviously spent hours perfecting - missing the whole point of belly dance.
    Very well-said. This is exactly why I am very hesitant about using the words "arm moves," because most of the things we do with our arms in BD aren't "moves" in the sense that, for example, a hip drop is a move. They are complimentary frames, pathways, patterns, or "drawings" to those moves but not exactly moves in and of themselves.

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