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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum—

Armwork in Fence Line and Others 

It does my heart good to see so many dancers talking about "arm work".  So often we just want to dance the dance and are not concerned with styling or other "extra" things that I think make the dance so much more beautiful and so much more satisfying. 

Note that armwork is optional (even when it is part of the choreography, dancers can still optionally omit it).  There is not one and only one "correct" way to do armwork.  But there are some principles to follow if you want it to look nice instead of just flailing around. 

  1. Arms are an extension of the body and the hands are extensions of the arms. Any movement of the arms should first begin in the body and then "flow" through to the arm and then to the hand. 
  2. Some arm movements are quick and sharp (Open Break; third measure of Three Threes; Disco Lunge; Side Breaks; etc). Other arm movements are smooth and are in constant motion throughout (Fence Line; Time Step; Advanced Sliding Door; Sweethearts; etc.). 
  3. To make an arm movement smooth, lead with the elbow. When moving arms out and in (like Time Step arms) it is easy to visualize how the elbow leads the ebb and flow of the arms.  But it is also true when doing the behind over the head movement of the Fence Line arm movement.  Rather than just swing from the shoulder the entire arm, as a stiff board over my head and forward, I start turning my arm about half way up (so palm of hand faces me) and then bend the elbow and "lay" the back side of my arm forward and then as the arm is going forward twist the hand so it faces the floor (ending position is the same as with the stiff arm method). 
  4. Most smooth arm movements are done independently of partner. Let them be free. If in Butterfly — let go and parallel your partner's arm movement but don't hold hands — each partner should freely move their own arm. 

In the Fence Line, I like the technique I described in 3 above for step one.  You should time it so that the forward arm movement is completed just as you are recovering for the second step.  Then use the "Time Step" arm technique to bring the arm/hand across your chest and back out to the side.  Take the rest of the measure to do it. Your hand should be "flicking" at the very end of the measure to complete the "arm movement" just as you are ready to take the first step of the next measure. 

Some people like to dance Rumba and Cha with sharp movements, and, if so, then the arm movements should have a correspondingly sharp stab to position and then slowly flow to finish. 

By the way, when I use the Fence Lines with trailing arms coming forward up and over, I do not move the leading arms, which remain joined at the hands.  When I am not using the trail arm up and over for the Fence Line, I do like to use the leading arms "wax on -- wax off" circle motion as we do the first step of the Fence Line.


Tim Eum originally prepared these Tips for
Calls 'n' Cues, (WASCA);
Additional material from contributions to the Weavers discussion list.
reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council
(DRDC) Newsletter, April 2010

 

 


If you would like to read other articles on dance position, technique, styling, and specific dance rhythms, you may visit the article TOC.




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