Tag Archive | arms


It’s November!  There’s a lot going on in November, so just this month, there will be no new Weekly Challenges.

What?! Sorry, but this little belly dancer does a lot of things in November; it’s always been a tough month.  I’m also a writer (hey, here’s a shameless plug for my novel, The Horror at Palmwich), and I take part in National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo).  So I’m going to be doing a lot of writing this month.  A whole book, just in the month of November!  But that’s not all!  I also have to write and edit two newsletters that come out this month, one of which is my own!  If you haven’t already, check out my newsletter, sign up, and get special offers and content JUST FOR SUBSCRIBERS.  This stuff will never be offered to the public, so you have to get my newsletter for them!

Instead of writing a new challenge each week, I have chosen my most popular Weekly Challenges ever!  Pick one each week and give it a try!

October 7, 2013 – Drills

May 13, 2013 – Let’s add the drama!

August 23, 2013 – Emoting through arm movement

May 21, 2012 – Zills!

I’ll see you back again in December!  Have a great month, and happy dancing!

Don’t forget to find me on Facebook or on my Facebook pageTwitter, or Tumblr.

Weekly Challenge for 10-14-13

A new week, a new challenge!


If you’ve been following the blog recently, you know we’ve been doing a lot of arm challenges lately. Here’s another one, but one for your shoulders!

As modern people with access to computers, we spend a lot of time slumped over our keyboards, our shoulders thrust forward, stretching out our upper backs. This is not a healthy posture. It can also impact our dance. So let’s work on our shoulders!

Beginner: Unless you are a massage therapist, yoga enthusiast, or work hard to have amazing posture, it’s likely that you spend most of your time slumped. While you are not alone, it is important to begin working on shoulders at this level of your dance. Strong shoulders = strong posture. Strong posture not only makes you look more confident as a dancer (no more apology dances!), it will lengthen the time you are capable of dancing (by preventing injury, strengthening muscles, etc.). This week, while practicing, concentrate on your shoulder posture. It will be only a small part of your overall posture, but this week concentrate on those shoulders! Keep them out of your ears, keep them back and down. Check in once and awhile and make sure those shoulders stay put! If you struggle, talk to your teacher or a trainer and see if there are some exercises they can give you to strengthen that upper back and your deltoids.

Intermediate: Depending on how your teacher teaches moves like snake arms and shoulder locks, you may use your shoulders a lot. This week, rein it in a little. While it’s not “wrong” to use your shoulders in snake arms (they move because they are attached…remember there are few “wrong” ways to do belly dance!), many dancers use their shoulders too much. This may be an aesthetic choice, but keep in mind that your rotator cuff may not take the abuse well. Take care of your shoulders this week. Get a massage, see if your snake arms improve with a little less shoulder, make your locks small, sharp, and precise. Also check in with your posture, and keep those shoulders down and back.

Advanced: At this level, your posture should be perfect, with strong shoulders and controlled movements (like snake arms and locks). What I want to talk about this week is how you teach shoulder work. First of all, if you have ever stretched out your students’ upper backs, please stop. You may be doing more harm than you know. Because of our slumped postures, most of us have over-stretched upper backs. Stretching them more is asking for injury. Instead, strengthen the upper back (then stretch it). If you have no anatomy training as a teacher, I strongly suggest you get it, or stop teaching before you injure your students. This week, work on learning strengthening techniques, the anatomy and workings of the shoulder, and share these with your students. If you don’t teach, learn them anyway, and apply them to your practice this week. Then, when you teach shoulder work, check your students to make sure they aren’t over-extending or popping out the shoulder in a way that could injure them. Don’t exaggerate snake arms or your students will copy that. Lead with the elbow, and the shoulder will follow!

Weekly Challenge for 9-16-13

Okay, I’ve had a different kind of challenge the past few weeks, and that’s sitting down long enough to do work, including blogging!  There was no weekly challenge last week, sorry!

So once again, let’s get back to those challenges!


Ah, arms, those appendages that always seem to feel awkward no matter what we do.  As teenagers, we never knew what to do with our arms.  Was it cooler to stick our hands in our pockets, or fold our arms across our stomachs, or just leave them hanging?  In belly dance, we forget our arms and let them droop (cluck, cluck!) or we forget we have hands and fingers and the movement doesn’t get finished through them.

So let’s work on arms!

Beginner: Keep those elbows up!  Your challenge this week is only about watching those arms.  Whenever you practice, when you are in class, keep your arms in mind.  Keep them up, keep them open.  Depending on your style, your teacher may allow a slight dip in the elbow or she may want those babies rotated back and raised to the ceiling!  Either way, make sure your arms are out.  I’ve heard many teachers of all different styles tell students to imagine a grapefruit (or a really ripe peach!) is hovering under each armpit.  If your arms fall, you squish the grapefruit!  Sticky!  Of course, you still want to keep your other movements in mind, but check in especially with your arms this week.

Intermediate: The secret to pretty belly dance arms is leading with the elbow.  Really.  Even if the movement is initiated by the shoulder (as in many snake arm techniques), the elbow is the leader and the focus of the movement.  If you can get great rotation of the arm, at the elbow, you can get great arms.  Here’s the deal: your elbow doesn’t actually rotate, it’s the shoulder.  BUT, you don’t want your shoulder to move, so you have to separate the movement of the shoulder upwards and its rotation in order to give the appearance of your elbow rotating.  Your challenge is to find arm rotation exercises (internal and external rotation of the shoulder) and practice those until those elbows can pop up without the shoulder also popping.  Good luck!  Work on it, and your snake arms will be killer!

Advanced: If your elbows (shoulders!) have a weak rotation, go back to the intermediate challenge and work on getting that elbow rotation down.  Otherwise, let’s add nice arms to our movements.  One of the hallmarks of a great dancer is being able to move all parts of your body fluidly and easily, whenever you need them to.  So when you are standing still, doing a series of hits, or something really awesome with your abs, make sure your arms look nice.  Don’t just let them hang out.  Frame, or do a movement that complements the primary movement.  Go back through your choreographies and see if there’s a spot when your arms are just down or just out.  Can you do something else with them there?  Also, keep in mind that emotion can be portrayed through arm movements ALONE (but that will be another challenge!)

Happy dancing!

And hey…if you have an idea or want to see something turned into a challenge, drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you, and you’ll get a shout-out on the blog!

Photo Credit to SashaW

This Week’s Challenge

Another challenge for this week! Yay! So are you ready?

And hey…if you have an idea or want to see something turned into a challenge, drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you, and you’ll get a shout-out on the blog!

Arm patterns (and…gasp!…layering!)

Beginners: It’s hard to think about your arms while you are still learning how to drop a hip or do a maya, and that’s normal and okay. BUT, it’s never to early to start learning how to use those arms! And what better way than to drill an arm pattern? Yup, you can drill arm patterns just like you drill hip drops, mayas, or any other movement. It will help get the pattern into your muscle memory so that you don’t have to think about it so much. So, take an arm pattern from class (if you haven’t learned one, ask your teacher for one) and drill it for one song every day this week! Sound boring? It doesn’t have to be! If you have the pattern down pretty well, try varying it a little by slowing down during one part, and speeding up another. Slow it waaaaaaaaay down and see how hard it gets to make it look nice while still doing the movement. Have fun with it!

Intermediate: You are (gasp!) going to layer this! Pick an arm pattern, or make one up for an additional challenge, and drill it while you are doing mayas. Remember to keep your mayas even and full (don’t cut them off halfway because you are concentrating on your arms!) and keep the arms moving. You may find your brain overloading a bit and end up dropping one movement in order to get the other right. Keep trying! Just stop, pick up your mayas, and then get the arms going again. You can do it! Drill one whole song every day!

Advanced: Ever notice that some dancers have lovely arm patterns, but they basically stand still while doing them? While that is fine and there is nothing inherently wrong in doing that, let’s spice it up a bit! Pick one of your choreographies that has a lot of arms in it (if you don’t have one, come up with a good, long combo with lots of arms). If you find yourself standing still, start moving with it! And don’t just walk! Pick a traveling step, like grapevine, and stick a maya on it, then do your arm pattern. Remember that just because you are traveling and layering it doesn’t mean it has to look like you are going through a seizure. It should still look nice and work with the music (especially if you are using an established choreography). Keep your hip movements defined, relax, smile, and make sure your arms are strong.

Happy dancing!