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  1. #1
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    Default Advice on arms for a newbie?

    I don't come to these forums as often as I should, but I'm hoping someone here can provide me with some tips or resources. As I don't have the funds to take classes at the moment, I'm having to rely on at home practice. Unfortunately, this means I'm without a teacher or mentor to guide me.

    I've been dancing for a year now as of my birthday last month and I feel like I've come a long way since then, but there's one issue that's consistently plagued me from the very beginning: arms.

    I spend my practices in front of my webcam doing mostly improv with some DVD-based choreography and drilling. It seems that no matter how often I remind myself that I have sloppy arms, they still manage to detract so much from my videos that I can scarcely focus on other areas where I need to improve. In every video there's instances of one arm floating off seemingly independent of the rest of my body, a hand drooping lazily, or awkward pose lines. It makes my dancing look just awful.

    Has anyone else gone through this? What can I incorporate into my practice to work toward more natural-looking arms? Are there any good resources for this that I should check out?

  2. #2
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    First off - a year is nothing. Give it time.

    Drilling is the answer. For instance, as part of your warmup, walk around the room. Over 4 steps raise one arm above your head - next 4 out to the side - next 4 back in. Change sides. Do both together. Add zills. The pattern isn't the issue - you being in control of your arms is.

    Next, think above two moves. Consider arm position for move 1 and arm position for move 2. Work on smooth transitions.

    The journey is more important than the destination (but you better make the destination).

    Also consider strengthening work for arms and upper back.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Kashmir; 08-13-2012 at 05:40 AM. Reason: spelling

  3. #3
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    Thank you.

    I get caught up sometimes with wondering where I'm supposed to be in dancing after a year... like I'm supposed to be performance ready or something. I have a bad habit of expecting too much of myself too soon and too fast. It's good to hear that a year isn't much time. I feel like I can cut myself some slack now.

    I have Brianna's Ballet for Belly Dance DVD and she features a section where she drills a belly dance and traditional ballet port de bras. Would that be helpful to add as well?

    I've never thought of adding zills, but I can see how that would definitely help. My instructor before I moved never covered zills so I have yet to purchase a pair, but I know my local dance studio sells them. I'll have to swing by...

    Anyway, I'll be sure to re-incorporate drills with arms into my daily practice. I have a bad habit of neglecting to drill lately, but I'll be sure to remedy that. If it'll help me overcome my sloppy arms, I can get over the fact that it's not much fun.

    I really appreciate the advice. It's not easy for me to be so new and to suddenly find myself without guidance.

  4. #4
    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kashmir View Post
    First off - a yera is nothing. Give it time.

    Drilling is the answer. For instance, as part of your warmup, walk around the room. Over 4 steps raise one arm above your head - next 4 out to the side - next 4 back in. Change sides. Do both together. Add zills. The pattern isn't the issue - you being in control of your arms is.

    Next, think abve two moves. Consider arm position for move 1 and arm position for move 2. Work on smooth transitions.

    The journey is more important than teh destination (but you better make the destination).

    Also consider strengthening work for arms and upper back.

    Good luck.
    This is pretty much how I took care of my inelegant arms. I had years of poor training under my belt with no focus on the arms and so I had issues. I did a workshop on elegant arms & took the notes & vids home & practiced the arms & posture whilst using the wii stepping game. It got me into the habit of having elegant arms while moving which then translated into having elegant arms whilst dancing.

    As you said, it's still a work in progress.

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    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    Sorry for the double post.

    Perhaps speak to the local studio about your interest (let them know you've been keeping it up at home) and that your financial situation makes it difficult for you to keep dancing. For the price of a decent pair of zills you can buy yourself a private lesson to cover what you want to work on and you can use that to help you.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Sophia Maria's Avatar
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    Hi nysari,

    Arms can be a toughie. They've never really been my weak spot, but in the beginning they definitely were more floppy. Sometimes when I watch my old videos I SERIOUSLY cringe. Don't worry, arms are something that take time and patience!

    Kashmir is right about her drilling ideas. It sounds like you're trying to do some choreography? If you're moving several parts of your body at once, that could be why your hands droop and you lose focus in your arms. I would say one useful drill is practicing a steady hip move, like simple hits (locks, snaps? whatever you call them) to a beat while you slowly move through an arm pattern, like a port du bras, wrist circles, etc.

    Another thing is, whenever I feel like I need to refine arm movements, I head to a pool. It might sound weird, but just standing up to my neck in water and going through arm movements is immensely helpful. The water makes you slow down, and most importantly, use your muscles more. This might help you achieve the graceful "pushing" and "pulling" that my dance teacher always wants me to understand.

    Learn poses, yes, but moving through poses and how you are arriving at each one is more important, IMO.

    Lastly, this is my personal stumbling block, arms are more emotional than you'd expect. Express something important through them.

  7. #7
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nysari View Post
    I get caught up sometimes with wondering where I'm supposed to be in dancing after a year... like I'm supposed to be performance ready or something.
    Rule of thumb, "safe" performance of simple choreography in front of friends and family - 6-18 months.
    Quote Originally Posted by nysari View Post
    I have Brianna's Ballet for Belly Dance DVD and she features a section where she drills a belly dance and traditional ballet port de bras. Would that be helpful to add as well?
    Probably. Only watch that it is used to develop strength, poise and grace - not that you end up (always) using ballet arms in belly dance. (That was partly why I suggested the transitions exercise - pick say the one hand on the back of the head, one hand in front and gracefully transition to L arms etc)

  8. #8
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    Thank you, everyone. This advice is really helpful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sophia Maria View Post
    Another thing is, whenever I feel like I need to refine arm movements, I head to a pool. It might sound weird, but just standing up to my neck in water and going through arm movements is immensely helpful. The water makes you slow down, and most importantly, use your muscles more. This might help you achieve the graceful "pushing" and "pulling" that my dance teacher always wants me to understand.
    That's funny that you mention that. Every time I'm in my father-in-law's pool, I can't help but think "there's gotta be some way I can use the water to make my dance movements more fluid." But I was always focused on hip moves and belly rolls and the like. For some silly reason, working on my arms never once occurred to me. I'll have to try that this weekend when we go down to their house again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kashmir
    Rule of thumb, "safe" performance of simple choreography in front of friends and family - 6-18 months.
    I've never heard this before, but I like that rule. I've only danced for my family once. I should work on making regular practice of it...

    Quote Originally Posted by Darshiva
    Perhaps speak to the local studio about your interest (let them know you've been keeping it up at home) and that your financial situation makes it difficult for you to keep dancing. For the price of a decent pair of zills you can buy yourself a private lesson to cover what you want to work on and you can use that to help you.
    I'll be sure to try that... The woman who runs the three studios in my area seems like an incredibly sweet lady. Hopefully she'd be willing to work with me on the price.

  9. #9
    V.I.P. shiradotnet's Avatar
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    Smile

    There's an article on my web site with advice on how to develop attractive arm movements for belly dance:

    Belly Dance Technique: Beautiful Arms

    Maybe some of its suggestions will be helpful to you.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiradotnet View Post
    There's an article on my web site with advice on how to develop attractive arm movements for belly dance:

    Belly Dance Technique: Beautiful Arms

    Maybe some of its suggestions will be helpful to you.
    Shira,

    I actually stumbled across your article the day after I started this thread. Like most everything on your website, it's been an incredible help. Thank you!

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