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Adding Embellishments: The Basics of Arm Styling

After everything you’ve learned, from connecting with your partner to keeping time with the music, (and breathing through all that too!) now you have to add arm styling? It’s enough to make some of us throw up our hands and say ‘forget it! I should have just taken cooking lessons.’ On the plus side, arm styling has numerous advantages, including better musicality, a more personal look and feel to your dance, and a 100% increase in your manliness/womanliness (whichever you’re looking for).

Before we can tackle the meat and potatoes of beautiful and sexy arm styling, we need to lay out some important ground rules.

  1. No ‘Go-go Gadget’ or ‘chicken wing’ arms. That means keep the elbow at mid-bend, not completely straightening, or bending so much the the hand comes almost back to the shoulder. Generally the arms will be rounded gently forwards, so a profile view would show elbows forward from shoulders, and hands forward from elbows. Watch how ballet dancers move their arms to get the idea.
  2. Move from the centre. Often you’ll hear teachers telling you ‘the arms are extensions of the ribcage’. Another way of picturing this is imagining you are chest deep in water. Every movement sends ripples traveling slowly outwards in the same direction. Likewise, begin every move from the ribcage, and let that movement ‘ripple out’ to the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and fingers. Pulling back to the centre is done the same way.
  3. Energy and Tone. You don’t want to be a wet noodle flopping around, but neither do you want flex your muscles like a body builder. Imagine holding a light weight, like a lacrosse ball while styling (even better: buy a lacrosse ball). The minimal amount of tone required is about average (we’ll cover changes in tone in another article).
  4. Breathe! I ask so much of you, don’t I? Breathing doesn’t just keep you alive, it also helps to maintain that minimal tone we talked about earlier, without tensing up. Try sending out your arms on the out-breath, and see how it keeps them more relaxed.
  5. Be continuous. Like the ripples in the water, make sure your movement is smooth and even – no sudden jerks, or you’ll look more like you’re being tortured with electricity then dancing.
    These are the little hacks every dancer needs for confident and controlled arm styling. Next week, we’ll get you started with some exercises to develop your arm styling technique. In the meantime, check out these dance videos for inspirational arm styling!

Waltz Arm Styling Video
Latin Arm Styling Video

Credits

Harold & Meredith Sears
Dance Central

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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