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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Exploring Figure 8's

By Arabella

Taxim is improvised music without a specific rhythm, and dance performed to taxim is improvised also, without being choreographed first. But how do you practice something that you make up as you go along? One approach is to choose a single move, and then explore possibilities. I'm into figure eights, so come play "crazy eights" with me!

Many belly dance moves start with the hips, so we'll start there, too. The most common way to execute a figure eight is to move the hips horizontally, parallel to the floor. First one hip describes half of the "eight", then the other hip does the other half. In relation to the front, the figure eight is lying on its side. It can move from front to back, called a "backward figure eight", or back to front, called "forward". Technically, there isn't much to worry about: try to make the halves of the figure eight smooth and even, and always return to center after each one.

The figure eight can also move vertically; that is, parallel to the front wall. The hip moves "up and over", and then scoops into center. And, of course, this movement can be reversed: under, then over. Hey, I just realized that the pelvis itself is shaped somewhat like a figure eight!

Is it possible to describe an "eight" using only one hip? Yes, parallel to the floor again, but this time the "eight" is upright; the top half toward the front, and the bottom half to the back. Can we walk with a figure eight? Sure - as the hip swings around, release the foot and let it come along for the ride.

We've done horizontal and vertical, but you can also play with diagonal.

All these ideas can also be executed by the rib cage. Can any other parts of the body also be used? Definitely the hands, and why not experiment with the head or shoulders also?

What about props? You could say that the figure-eight shape was made for veil work. The shape works well with a cane, too.

The Arabic symbol for "8" is an upside-down "V". But that's another session...


About the Author

Arabella, the author of this article, has contributed many informative pieces to this web site on a variety of topics, including:

  • Analysis of technique for doing certain dance moves
  • Costume ideas
  • Essays and opinion pieces
  • Understanding Middle Eastern music
  • Helpful how-to's, such as remembering choreography

Please visit Arabella's home page on this web site for a full list of articles she has contributed.

Arabella began her dance studies with Russian Ballet classes. Frustrated by ballet's impossible ideals, and curious about more ethnic dance disciplines, she moved on to study various other dance forms. Moving further east each time, these included Spanish flamenco, Escuela Bolera, Middle Eastern, and East Indian Odissi.

Arabella, based in Toronto, Canada, is also a certified Mastercraftsman in crewel embroidery, with a special passion for metal thread and ethnic embroidery. Currently she particularly focuses on Palestinian and East Indian embroidery.

Photo of Arabella



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