Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Eeeeeeeeee Elbows!

American Tribal Style is a dance form which prides itself on excellent posture. We create elegant lines with our bodies that show strength and grace. From the soft but strong curve of our arms, slightly bent knees, to keeping our pelvis tilted and lower abs engaged so we're never sticking our tushies out - ATS posture conveys stability and confidence.

A crucial element to remember when keeping correct ATS form is our elbows. How many videos have you seen on youtube where you see the dance but you don't feel the strength? If you look at their arms you might have your answer. All too often elbows are let dangle and droop where they are not meant to.

Granted, there are a few exceptions - Ghawazee Shimmy, Shoulder Shimmy Hip-Drop, etc. but generally these principles apply. Let's have a look at how elbows should be - engaged and elegant. EEE!

The first thing to remember about elbows is (except for a few select moves) they should be perpendicular to your body - never drooping. here are some examples:

You can see these dancers emanate strength and poise - and their elbows never fall below the yellow line - the arms are held up so they are perpendicular or even higher.

The other way we display strength through our elbows is by keeping them engaged. This is slightly different when we have them up (as in the Egyptian) or down (right arm in Reverse Turn).

If the arms are up as in an Egyptian, Arabic, etc. the elbows should be gently pulling backwards - away from the audience. In this way we show the soft curve in the arm - rather than showing the elbow pointing directly ahead and the arm looking straight or falling forward.

If the arms are down, we want to pull the elbow forward, toward the audience. Again, to elegantly show the full side and soft curve of the arm.

This is a little bit harder to explain, but here are some examples I hope will clarify:

In the first picture, especially in the dancers left arm you can see how she has a soft curve in her arm and the elbow is pointing out, almost back - not to the front. The lovely ladies to the right all show how the arms curve and elbows flex slightly backwards as well. Beautiful engaged, elegant elbows. EEE!

At first it takes great awareness of your body to remember to hold your elbows in this way. It may take time to drill into your head but eventually it will become automatic.

Chorus is an important time to remember your EEE as well, especially during slow songs. When performing taxeem or ribcage rotations our arms are in a soft curve, but down by our sides. We can show strength even then by pulling the elbows forward.

Hope this helps you look strong and elegant while dancing!! Just remember: EEEEEE!

I am NOT a dance teacher nor professional. I do not claim to be a perfect dancer or perfect advisor in dance technique. This is just me passing on what I have learned in my classes in hopes it will help you!


  1. Yes, this is so important! Now that I'm an intermediate dancer, whenever I am in beginner class it drives me crazy when the newbie leader lets her elbows sag, thus muddying the cues. Proud, pretty arms make a world of difference! :)

  2. Carolena & Megha teach arms in the traditional ballet positions during general skills, and that might help people who need help with keeping strength and poise in the arms when the arms are lowered. Shoulders should be resting along the "back body" (ie, roll your shoulders up and slightly back), chests should be lifted, and elbows should always be slightly rotated outwards to get that gorgeous, flamenco-esque posture.

  3. During GS, when assisting Ms. Nericcio, Kae (Montgomery) said this about the elbows:

    During the resting position (when the back of the hands rest on our hips or way down for those with long arms), the elbows face the front of the room.

    During the table-top position, the elbows face the ceiling, so there's a twist in the upper arms & shoulders in order to make the elbows face the ceiling.

    When the arms are up, the elbows face the back wall and are slightly pulled back so as not to hide the face when being seen from profile.

    Of course there are the combinations (one arm is in table-top, while another is up), so the rule applies to each arm & elbow.

    All of the above are done with the correct posture as written by Christina Allen Page.

    The front-wall-ceiling-back-wall thing really gets stuck in my head, though sometimes when I'm really tired, my elbows just sag... *sigh*

  4. I love the analogy of carrying my arms as if i were pulling the string on a bow. It always seems to give my arms and shoulders more purpose when doing overhead moves like Basic Egyptian and Double Bump.

  5. Hey,
    Fantastic blog, I was looking at costume patterns and came across your blog. I would love to start dancing again, it's been 10 years and I live in the woods...I gotta stop making excuses.
    ;) Collie