For years, dancers from all over the world have been emailing me about how to pick out a sword and where to find the perfect sword for their style or experience level! And in the past week alone, I've gotten three emails on this subject!
Here are some sword selection points to consider:
Finding the perfect sword for belly dancing can be a daunting task. This is especially true if you are about to purchase your first scimitar, or if you are shopping for a sword on the Internet, and don’t have the opportunity to try it out in person.
For someone who is just beginning to dance with scimitars , the best are those that are perfectly balanced, height-proportionate, and not really light but also not a big heavy weapon, because you may need to increase your strength and work up to that. Medium size well-balanced dance sabers are pretty inexpensive, so once you get used to working with them, if you want a flashy, heavier sword, it wouldn’t break your bank to buy one after a few months of getting used to your "starter" sword- and that way, you will always have a spare on hand.
You want a saber that'll stay on your head without rocking, and one that won't kill your neck and upper muscles until you build up the necessary stamina and strength. Also, durability figures in- you want it to stay balanced if- and when- it gets dropped, and believe me it will get dropped!
Your selection will depend on a few different factors: aesthetics and personal taste is important. One dancer might want a gleaming new-looking sword that shines under the stage lights, while another may desire a weapon that looks more rustic, like it’s an authentic antique. There are also many shapes and sizes of swords to choose from, ranging from those with relatively thin blades without much curve to blades that have a deadly, sharp curve and get thicker at the end, towards the tip. The way the hilt (handle) looks and feels is also a factor. Some swords have a very utilitarian, simple-looking hilt with a flat cross guard, others are highly decorated, and ranging from ornately carved rounded or pointed pommels to dragonhead motifs. I even have a sword whose handle features a cast-brass figure of a leaping jaguar chasing a rabbit. If your sword features a cupped cross guard and you are left-handed, make sure it fits your hand properly, or get an “ambidextrous” sword with a flat cross-guard.
Your sword choice will also depend on your size. A larger sword might be too heavy or dwarf a smaller performer onstage, while a smaller, shorter sword might look comical on a taller, more statuesque dancer.
More importantly, your sword selection should be based on how experienced you are, as well as in the strength of the muscles in your neck, upper back, shoulders and arms. Remember, you are going to be balancing it on top of your head and will have to remain very stable while doing so, and that takes strength. You will also be arcing and swinging the sword while it’s held in your hand, and so it needs to be light enough for you to easily handle it.
Another factor is price: swords can range from about $25.00 to $500.00, depending on quality, size, whether the sabre is custom-made or antique...but don’t think you need to make a huge investment in order to get a decent sword.
There are many inexpensive options on the market today, so if you are a beginner and unsure of what to get, pick a slightly smaller, relatively affordable sword- you can always work your way up to a larger, heavier and more expensive one later.
All swords balance differently, depending on the weight of the blade, the heft and angle of the hilt-or in laymen’s terms, the handle area- which includes the cross-guard and pommel, which is the decorative bolt at the top of the handle. When buying a sword for dancing, pick one that stands up straight on it’s edge (the blade edge) and doesn’t flop over flat. There are many scimitar options on the market today which are made strictly for dancing and are balanced already, so you will not have a problem finding a sword that suits you and your unique needs.
When shopping for a sword in person, check it out and find the median balance point by testing the blade on the top of your wrist, then try it on your head. The balance point of the sword itself won’t be dead center; it will be more towards the sword’s handle. The optimum balance point on your head will be different depending on what type of sword you are using as well as what is easiest for you. For swords, my balance point is just in front of the center of my head- but everyone’s skull has a different shape. With some practice, you will find what is your most comfortable spot.
o it becomes gummy will add a little traction. Some dancers glue a very thin strip of sandpaper along the edge at the balance point. This will not be visible from the stage but it does help to “catch” on your hair. Some types of swords come with grooves already cut into them at the balancing point- but I myself don’t find this helpful- usually the grooves are too wide for them to be able to work properly. And there are also dancers who don’t use anything, just a bare blade. Again, this is your choice.
And one last word to the wise: even if a sword was made specifically for dancing, it still has the potential to injure you. Remember to warm up completely before you work with your scimitar. If you feel it sliding while you are dancing, take a moment, remove the sword and replace it back to your original, comfortable balance point, and then proceed with your act.
The main thing to remember when rehearsing or performing with swords is: SAFETY FIRST!
The article you have just read is an excerpt from
THE BELLY DANCE HANDBOOK: A COMPANION FOR THE SERIOUS DANCER
... get an autographed copy here:
I also have three instructional sword dancing DVDs featuring more hints, tips, sword tricks, choreographies, and costumed sword performances on that page : )
Here's a link which features many great dancing swords…tell them The Princess sent you!