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  1. #1
    Junior Member Reiana's Avatar
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    Default What do I do with my arms?

    Can you tell from the title that I'm a beginner? *grin*

    I've been dancing for about nine months now at The Cassandra School. The teachers and environment are amazing, but I'm... impatient. *chuckle* A lot of the instruction has been focused on the lower body, and rightfully so, but I can't help but feel that I'd look a lot better doing the hip moves if I knew a few more arm postures and movements to pair with them!

    I watched a copy of Rachel Brice's Arms and Posture video, but it seemed more focused on "Tribal Fusion" style, and what I'm learning is "Cabaret" so it didn't feel completely appropriate. I'm sure it's a great workout, but I don't want to confuse myself with different styles this early into my dancing.

    Does anyone have any suggestions of arm postures/movements? I know snake arms, but I can't use that for everything! Any links to photographs showing posture, videos that have great examples, etc. etc. will be appreciated!

    (Sorry if this is posted under the wrong forum category, I'm new!)

  2. #2
    Senior Member sedoniaraqs's Avatar
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    Sahra Kent has a video out called "Arms and Torso", which is upper body centric. I bought a used copy a while back but I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but I'm confident its good. She's an excellent Egyptian style dancer.

    You might want to invest in a private lesson or two with Cassandra or whoever your teacher is, just to work on arms and upper body and make sure they keep up with your hips.

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    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Welcome! Sounds like you are in good hands with Cassandra's school.

    For me, I like "natural" arm movement - which can be really unnatural to achieve. So for most of the time I use arms and hands to frame and draw the eye. The trick is then not to make them stiff and rigid; a small movement of the wrist or a softening of the shoulders will do it. I learnt most one year when I was pretty ill (recovering from brain surgery) but had signed up for an eight-day intensitive with Aida Nour. I didn't have the stamina to dance for the whole time but I could spend many hours following her arm, hand and shoulder positioning. If you cannot actually follow someone with good arms dancing for a few hours (doing choreography is likely to be less useful), I'm sure you could get similiar benefit from following on video/DVD

    The other side of arms is to occassionally do an accent (I think of snake arms in this category). For it to be effective you need to be able to hit the exact angle, position and texture on the first hit - pretty much the opposite of the skills above. For this, working with a mirror is great. Pick a move you want to accent. Play around until your arms are something like you want. Now. Eyes closed. Do the move, (eyes open) and straight into the arm accent. Check the look (or use a video camera). And again. And again. And ...

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    V.I.P. Reen.Blom's Avatar
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    Welcome and happy posting!

    I think what is helping me is...general practice.... LOL I use tribal DVDs and I figured out that in the end it is not about 'tribal' or 'cabaret' moves its about the strength and fluidity of your arms! It does not help just to use any "moves" for me its about the arms being "organic" so to put it, just flowing with the music.... dunno maybe its just me...

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    V.I.P. adiemus's Avatar
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    Nothing wrong with being a beginner - we're always learning here...!
    I found that practicing holding your arms in an open slightly curved position (a bit like a low second position in ballet) is good practice to develop strength in your upper body, then it's a bit easier to use them in gestures (like the hand behind the hip during a hip down, or the hand on the back of your head), and like Kashmir said, practicing so you hit the position exactly as you imagine it with your eyes closed really helps!! But remember that during dancing your balance changes so you need to also practice while dancing so you can adjust your arms and balance as you go.

  6. #6
    V.I.P. da Sage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reiana View Post
    Can you tell from the title that I'm a beginner? *grin*

    I've been dancing for about nine months now at The Cassandra School. The teachers and environment are amazing, but I'm... impatient. *chuckle* A lot of the instruction has been focused on the lower body, and rightfully so, but I can't help but feel that I'd look a lot better doing the hip moves if I knew a few more arm postures and movements to pair with them!

    I watched a copy of Rachel Brice's Arms and Posture video, but it seemed more focused on "Tribal Fusion" style, and what I'm learning is "Cabaret" so it didn't feel completely appropriate. I'm sure it's a great workout, but I don't want to confuse myself with different styles this early into my dancing.

    Does anyone have any suggestions of arm postures/movements? I know snake arms, but I can't use that for everything! Any links to photographs showing posture, videos that have great examples, etc. etc. will be appreciated!

    (Sorry if this is posted under the wrong forum category, I'm new!)
    If you are getting pretty good with your hips and undulations, just tell your teacher (before class) that you want to work a little more with your arms, so you are looking for corrections and challenges. Usually I find that my teachers are doing subtle things with their arms that they are not really describing or breaking down...watch carefully in drills and short combos how/when they break at the wrist and elbow, and how they hold their hands. Try to move their way in class, and then when you get home, work with a mirror to fine-tune the movement, so it looks best for your body.

    Also, go see a lot of performances. Pick one arm move from each show, and work on it for a few weeks, with some basic hip stuff.

    I'm surprised that you're not getting a variety of arm postures in class. It may not seem that fancy, but there's a lot involved in making even basic arm positions look graceful, and timing changes correctly. Or maybe it just seems that way to me.

    Have you seen the you-tube videos where the dancer gets very "army" (ornate arm/handwork, I think of this as very vintage American Cabaret style)? I have not seen any teachers teach that style as central content in Minneapolis, but if that's what you want, you could work on it with videos and a mirror. I know some of those moves are part of a Margo choreography I learned; if she comes out of retirement, you should try a few classes with her. Bonjoni is a local dancer who does more of this than most, and I know she has a community ed class (I don't know if that's part of her class content, though).

    If you like graceful arms, you might want to check out Leili's Persian Dance class. This is not bellydance at all, but Iranian dance, and it is breathtakingly beautiful. It involves a lot of gesture-based movement.

  7. #7
    Junior Member Reiana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by da Sage View Post
    I'm surprised that you're not getting a variety of arm postures in class. It may not seem that fancy, but there's a lot involved in making even basic arm positions look graceful, and timing changes correctly. Or maybe it just seems that way to me.:lol:
    It's entirely possible that I just haven't been terribly observant because I was concentrating so hard. *smirk* Thanks for your (and everyone else's) suggestions! I'll definitely start trying to watch more closely. *grin*

  8. #8
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    Something I find helpful is to watch as many dancers as possible, of all skill levels.
    If you see a posture/style that you don't like, analyse what you don't like about it - too fast, too angular, chicken arms, and that will help you identify what will work for you.

  9. #9
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    Hi! There is a DVD called Katia - Oriental Arms 1 that teaches you a lot oabout arm posture, what looks good and what doesn't. It helped me a lot.
    Here is the link from ebay:
    Katia's Oriental Arms Instructional Bellydance DVD - eBay (item 350064509657 end time Jun-26-08 13:31:40 PDT)

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