THE ELEMENTS OF DANCE/FUNDAMENTALS OF MOVEMENT

by Morwenna Assaf, Director Based on works by Robert Cohan "The Dance Workshop" When you start dancing, it is important to recognize the tools a dancer needs. There are eight (8) elements in dance that are most vital. As you progress your understanding will change as you discover what they mean to your body. The total sum of these elements is what is meant by technique. CENTERING: This is fundamental to your ability to dance well. This is maintaining a sense of your own body center that holds you together as you move. It allows you to move gracefully and freely. This means you have to have the ability to move, to hold, to organize yourself around your own physical body. If you are centered you can eventually learn how to do anything. If you are not centered you may develop beautiful looking arms and legs but never be able to move well. Liken your center to home. If you don’t have a sense of home you will probably get lost every time you go out.Your body needs to be balanced like a see-saw. Position fluctuates between individuals. Center for Middle Eastern Dance is in the solar plexus. Every movement has to go through center. This is what makes it Orientale or eastern. Your natural base is approximately just below the navel but the movements for this dance form come from the solar plexus. Everything emanates from there. Start by feeling how your arms and legs work from the same central point in the back. Moving from your center will make movements easier to control. GRAVITY: This is the force that holds you to the earth. It is a force you have to work with because it constantly inhibits movement. Try to become aware of the pulls in your own body. What points are taking the most weight? When you push on these points can you feel a rise up from them? You should be holding yourself better. When you dance you want to feel as if someone is pushing you under your buttocks and the base of your spine and directing the energy up through your breastbone. BALANCE: Balance is concerned with more than balancing on one leg. Your aim is to achieve and constantly maintain an inner balance of the whole body. It is tension of mutual support among all parts that brings the whole together in a new way. It is an inner relationship between all the points of your body which you hold in your awareness. It is not something you do once in awhile. It is constant. A sense of balance whether you are moving or standing. In the actual act of balancing, if you can find inner balance , you are nearly there. If you are aware internally the need for the sensation of balance, you should be able to get it. * Remember, balancing in both states is an active state. POSTURE: To achieve this element you need to change your perception of your body, there is often a wide discrepancy between what feels right and what looks right. Dancers work all their dance live on their posture, also called alignment. It is the key to balance and movement. Your posture not only reveals your feelings but can also reveal feelings in you. Learn how to stand properly. You will actually feel brighter and more aware. GESTURE: Gesture involves using the body as an expressive instrument to communicate feelings and ideas in patterns of movement. With subtle gestures and postural attitudes we show cooperation, give confidence to friends or display aggression to enemies. Arms crossed over chest are a protective wall. Hands on hips mean "show me", fists on hips is even more challenging. Anger patterns are depicted very differently

form joy or sadness. Weight on one hip -waiting. Hands out in front you ready to give or receive. Raising shoulders is a gesture of not knowing or caring. Shoulders forward expresses pain. Tapping foot boredom. Observe! Recognize what the body is saying. RHYTHM: Finding rhythm is largely a matter of paying attention. It is something everybody has, though, some people are not as aware or sensitive to it. Our hearts beat to a rhythm, our lungs breathe to another. Rhythm is essential for a dancer. Pay attention! Generally the beat is carried by the drum. Make sure you are right on the beat, not slightly late. All the work going into making a beat has already been completed by the time you hear it. In fact to get it right, you have to anticipate the beat slightly. Feel as if you are making the beat with your body as well as hearing it. Try to be at one with it, rather than dancing to it. It is the rhythm and the beat of the dance that form the "threads" which allow you to memorize the structure of the dance. MOVING in SPACE: You need to be as aware of the space around you as a cat. You have to move with care and awareness, gauging the space. Space is not just empty air but a tangible element that you move through. Consider the space an area you must go through. Consciously go through space. Feel your accomplishment as a journey through space. You will express thoughts and emotions. Actually press your feelings out through your torso and limbs in such a way as to show other people how we are feeling and to satisfy our desire of movement. Our muscles feel better when they are used, and once we get used to moving them, the whole body will respond by working in harmony with itself; to dance. BREATHING: Breathing is crucial to dance. Not only does it bring oxygen to the body but it also gives your movements fluency and harmony. It is an expressive tool. Calm slow breathing suggests a certain degree of selfcontrol. Denotes a specific quality of movement. A movement with breath has a controlled and considered extension of time, a clear beginning and end no matter how fast or slow the phrase. A phrase without breath looks stiff and mechanical. It is important to learn how to do two or three things at the same time. You frequently have to divide your attention while dancing. You must learn to breathe deeply expanding your ribs at the back of the body rather than from the front. This will also give a more emotional, organic look.

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