Saturday, April 10, 2010


There’s almost nothing more spectacular than an oriental dancer performing a beautiful sword balancing routine… that is, unless there are two or more dancers onstage!

Sword work with a partner or group is not only a visual treat for an audience, but a wonderful and fulfilling experience for the dancers. In the process, the dancers will learn not only about each other, but also about themselves. Your dancing will evolve and improve through heightened awareness of everything from basic to technique, isolations, posture, speed and your partner’s proximity as well as fine-tuning your sense of spatial awareness onstage.

Dancers working together on a constant basis learn that there is an almost magical, intuitive sense that develops between them, through moving in tandem. This special relationship between dancers has been explored extensively in the mechanics of American Tribal Style belly dance, but the concept itself applies to dancers of any genre!

Though improvisation is usually a hallmark of Tribal style belly dance, intuition and awareness of course can also happen organically or be implemented in choreographed routines. Dancers develop a sort of second sense about what their partner(s) are doing, which is known as proprioception , which is a conscious awareness of your muscles, they way they operate with each other, and how your own body moves through space, especially in relation to others.

When performing a sword duet or group piece, whether improvised or choreographed, always be aware of your dance partner’s proximity. You will want to keep enough space between yourselves so that the sword blades or handles do not touch or clash with each other.

Each group member should try to sense the pacing of the other dancers, but don’t feel compelled to rush yourself or catch up. For this reason, when performing with a group or partner, you may find that using some sort of slow or even ambient music might make more sense than something that is very fast-paced or syncopated. That way , you and your group can progress through the dance by movements and not by counting exact beats.

Take as much time as you need to place your sword securely on your head or any other balance point. When doing sword transfers or pass-offs with other dancers, make sure your partner is comfortable with the balance point before either of you moves on. Using physical and especially verbal cues onstage between partners is a good way to gage this. Select a cue word ( or sound) signaling “ready” and use it as much as you need to.

This almost goes without saying- but I’ll repeat it anyway: always work with swords that are in top condition: perfectly balanced, and an appropriate size that is comfortable size for you, as well as in length and weight. When working with a partner, or group, make sure that all swords being used are of fairly uniform size and weight, if not exact matches.

If you feel your sword slipping off your head, take a moment to re-adjust it.

You may want to rub the sword’s balance point with wax, or glue a strip sand paper to that area, so that it will “stick” to your head by catching your hair and the sword will not slip around.

Do not experiment with new hairstyles, wigs, turbans or head-wraps before a sword show. Stay with what you have worn while you rehearsed . This same rule applies to your choreography when working with a partner : stick to what you know!

Never grab for your sword if it falls- just try to get out of its way to avoid cuts, puncture wounds or other injuries.

Before going onstage, warm up completely, but also take a few minutes to center yourself and focus on your piece by sharing a moment of quiet “personal time” with your partner or the other dancers in your group.

Princess Farhana's DVD "Twin Blades: Sword Work With A Partner" is available for purchase here:

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