The Final Touch: Using your head and neck in belly dance
What can Aziza and a chicken teach you that will take your dancing to the next level?
Unlike ballet students, who learn body lines from the beginning, bellydance students often learn from the center outward. Beginners obsess over hipwork, intermediates struggle with their arms, and advanced dancers remember to point their toes and have elegant fingertips.
The head and neck come last, if at all.
These are often the final elements a dancer gets under control, after the arms and hands. Incorporating the head and neck into the lines of the dance is the mark of a highly skilled belly dancer (or one who comes from a classical dance background).
I’m not talking about facial expression, or spotting while turning, although those things are important (I talk extensively about facial expressions as part of the dance, and using head movements to create expression, in my Stage Presence DVD). I’m talking about the head and neck moving consciously with the body as part of the dance, instead of always facing forward into the audience.
Complete control of the body
Aziza is a classically trained dancer with a thorough awareness of body mechanics and line. Watch how Aziza’s head/neck are always part of her body line in this video.
Sometimes her chin is up, or down, sometimes you’re looking at her profile, or 3/4 profile. Imagine how different this dance would look if, no matter what her body was doing, her face was always pointed straight at the center of the audience.
Looking at the audience is good — in moderation
Keeping the face pointed directly at the center of the audience is a common mistake, which I think comes from watching ourselves in the mirror when we rehearse. We dance from the collarbones down. If we stare always straight outward, while our body moves in different directions and patterns, the effect is something like this:
How to develop beautiful alignment of your head and neck while dancing
- While you’re drilling moves, or practicing choreo, practice keeping your neck long. Float your ears away from the shoulders. Make sure your ears are aligned directly over your shoulders, so your head doesn’t drift forward. Don’t let your chin poke out or tuck down.
- Imagine you’re presenting your jugular to a sexy vampire, or letting a handsome suitor smell your perfume.
- Practice without a mirror, and with awareness of your head/neck
- Study dancers you admire (bellydance and other genres) and see how they’re using their heads and necks as part of their dance.
- When you are looking into the audience, look out to the corners and to the back of the room, even if it’s dark. It’s tempting to limit your attention to the front rows, where you can get feedback and play, but that drops your chin and ruins your lines.
- Watch your own hand, to align your head with an uplifted arm or create movement and interest.
- “Look” at your own moving hip (with your eyes, not by dropping your chin). The point isn’t to actually see it, but to direct attention to it.
- Pair some head and neck positions — and movements, like a slow chin lift — with your favorite moves/combos and then rehearse them that way until it feels natural and automatic to include your head.
- Think about how the angle of your head changes the emotional content of your presentation. A raised chin can be haughty or jubilant, a face turned to the side can be demure or aloof, a little head wiggle can be playful. Experiment.
- Videotape your new lines, and study the result.
Copyright 2015 by Lauren ZeharaHaas for Belly Dance U. If you want to share this article, please do so by providing a link to this page. You’re more than welcome to print yourself a copy, but copying and distributing this article is prohibited.