In A Woman's Book of Power, Karen Andes outlines a method for practicing belly dance that offers a dancer a creative way to explore aspects of the dance
Belly Dance Practice - Photo by Susan Caplan
Belly Dance Practice - Photo by Susan Caplan

 

By combining different aspects of body movement and music, a belly dancer opens herself up to the variety and variations within Middle Eastern dance. The formula described below, created by Karen Andes in A Woman’s Book of Power (Berkley Publishing Group, 1998) allows a dancer, both beginner and advanced to explore belly dance from a free form, or right brain aspect of practice.

The Bellydance Shapes

Andes looks at belly dance moves as breaking down into four sacred shapes. While practicing the dance, consider how the movements form distinct groups of shapes. Circles include ovals and half-circles or crescents. Figure 8s consist of two joined circles or ovals, while snakes are open figure 8’s. Her fourth sacred shape is the spiral, which can be and inward turning circle or outward growing circle.

The second part of the formula involves working those four shapes with different body parts – feet, legs, tailbone/hips, spinal column, rib cage, and shoulders/elbows/wrists. Even within these two points – dance shape and body part, there are many variations. Make circles large or small, do half circles, reverse direction, etc. Figure 8s can be made both symmetrical and asymmetrical. Perform snake shapes as a slow undulation and as a shimmy.

Moving within Space as a Dancer

A belly dancer moves her body so she is drawing shapes in the air. Horizontal moves are done parallel to the floor. Movements can also be drawn in front of the dancer, moving in a clockwise or counterclockwise fashion. The dance moves can also be drawn in an imaginary fashion on the wall to the dancer’s side in a sagittal (front-to-back) direction.

Now, take one of the four basic shapes, a body part, and one of the three directions and see what moves come out of this combination. Change one of those elements and different dance moves evolve from that modification. Further change each movement by altering the tempo it is performed – slow, moderate, fast.

And, finally, consider the direction the dancer’s entire body can move in as she travels through her dance space. Travel in a straight line front-to-back or side-to-side, travel in a circle, move in a triangular shape, draw a square on the floor while performing other dance moves. Other shapes a dancer can trace on the floor include a cross, a 5-pointed star, or a 6-pointed star.

Creating a Belly Dance Performance

Whether dancing to the radio at home or performing in public, a dancer can combine these five elements – dance shapes, body parts, direction of the shapes, tempo, and direction in space. With numerous variations and combinations, Karen Andes’ formula for dance allows a wide variety of possibilities. This recipe can add fun to a belly dancers practice, allowing for an exploration of the dance form.

 

It isn’t necessary for a dancer to think of practicing belly dance as a rote recitation of dance moves. Belly dance is an organic dance that moves the way the way the body moves. This free-form practice can evolve into improvisational performances.

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Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries had its humble beginnings as an idea of a few artisans and craftsmen who enjoy performing with live steel fighting. As well as a patchwork quilt tent canvas. Most had prior military experience hence the name.

 

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Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries a Dept of, Ask For IT was started by artists and former military veterans, and sword fighters, representing over 100 artisans, one who made his living traveling from fair to festival vending medieval wares. The majority of his customers are re-enactors, SCAdians and the like, looking to build their kit with period clothing, feast gear, adornments, etc.

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