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5 Arm Styling Exercises for the Ballroom Dancer

latin dancing

Learning about arm styling, much like reading about archery, doesn’t do you much good unless you actually get off your butt and start applying what you’ve learned. We can now move on to the exercises that will actually build great arm styling habits into your muscles. Try switching between this and the previous article to back up these exercises with some solid technique. And speaking of technique…

Caveat: The Benefits of Ballet

Ballet is the grandfather of ballroom dancing, and I recommend it as cross-training for anyone wanting to give their movement more power and grace. Much of the exercises here are just variations on the ballet arm positions, so you will find them much easier with that experience.

1. Arm to Side

To begin, just let your arms dangle at your side. Then, as if you had stepped into water up to your chest, let your arm ‘float’ upward and to the side, leading with the elbow, with wrist and fingers trailing behind. Stop the elbow just below shoulder height, and keep a gentle bend in it. Now weigh the elbow down to let it sink back to the side, following again with wrist and fingers.

2. Arm to Centre

Float the arm up to the side as with 1. Now bring the arm towards the chest by bending the elbow sharply, until the wrist is about 6” away from the solar plexus. Lower by flipping the wrist so the palm faces upward, then let the wrist sink down to the side.

3. Arm Overhead

Again, float the arm upwards to the side. This time, continue raising the arm so it arcs above the head, with the palm facing downward. Lower by rotating the arm inwards through the shoulder, continuing the arc downward to end at side. For a more Latin feel, you can cut the downward arc short by bending and sinking the elbow straight downward, so the trailing hand frames the opposite side of the face.

4. Head Caress

As with 3, let your arm arc up overhead. Then, sharply bend the elbow to drop the hand behind the neck or along the side of the head. Now let the elbow sink downward, pulling the wrist, hand, and fingers so the caress the head on their way down. From here, you can either lower the hand down the centre to the side, or spice it up further, by continuing to caress down the side of your body with an open palm.

5. Starburst

Start this one with the moving wrist to the side below the waist. Leading with the wrist with hand and fingers trailing behind, bring the hand in front of you, still low. Still leading with the wrist, bring the arm straight up over the head, then arc down to the side, or continue down to your front below the waist.

If the ‘trailing’ metaphor doesn’t work with you, imagine the non-leading parts of the arm are ‘dragged’ or ‘streaming’ behind the movement. Keep watching other pro dances to see what moves inspire you. Remember, there’s as many ways to style as there are people styling. What’s your style?


Harold & Meredith Sears

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for almost 20 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance and his endless seeking for ways to reach new audiences eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches ballroom at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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