Arm Poses and Freestyle Arm Movements - Belly Dance Lessons
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 (see our article on basic belly dance arm moves - or she can move her arms in freestyle movement patterns.
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 (see our article on the core belly dance movements). 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 danceing, 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.
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.
Freestyle Belly Dancing Arm Movements
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.
Learn How to Belly Dancing with Atéa's Videos
Basic arm poses and moves are taught in the Bellydance! Magical Motion available in a DVD format or VHS video tape.
Advanced arm poses and moves are taught in the Bellydance! Slow Moves is available in a DVD format or VHS video tape.
Return to section page about the belly dancing articles.