Dance, Movement

Working with Wings

In the post below I’ll share my tips for dancing with Wings of Isis, one of my favourite bellydance fantasy props.

I was introduced to wings by my first teachers, Myriam and Yamila, about 15 years ago.

When I saw in a show how magnificent  they could look on a stage, I decided to purchase a set of my own and employ them in my shows and wedding performances.

Some of the things I have learned:

  1. Invest in a Quality Set
  2. Work that Upper Body
  3. Hold on Lightly
  4. Fluttering Forward
  5. Power and Projection
  6. Angles, Angles, Angles
  7. Practice Spins and Turns
  8. Bodylines and Movement
  9. Find your Power Moves
  10. Grab a Friend 🙂

I will expand on each of the points below.

1. Invest in a quality Set

The wings I perform with in all of my videos are a made-to measure sets by Ayshe (USA)

They are a bit more pricey than the cheaper ones you can buy at bazaars (which I do use for workshops as loaner sets), but they are definitely worth the investment.

The set I dance with in the video below has stayed with me for over a decade(!) and is still in perfect condition – even after suitcase travels and ample practicing/teaching hours.

If ‘good’ wings are not an option (yet), a great in between option would be to replace the standard wider/stiffer bamboo sticks that come with cheaper wing sets by thinner, slightly bendable, yet sturdy pvc rods (which Ayshe also sells separately)

2. Work that Upper Body

Opening up your upper body range of motion, strengthening your back and abs, and limbering up your shoulders will help enormously when dancing with wings.

You want to practice keeping a lifted posture and a lengthening of the whole spine, which will enable you to rotate and tilt your ribcage independently of your shoulders, giving you freedom of movement in your arms, torso and hips.

Also.. remember to breathe 🙂

Some of my favourite shoulder and upper body stretching and strengthening exercises can be found in this video course by Stacey Nemour.

3. Hold on Lightly

If you keep a ‘light hold’ on you wing sticks, it will allow you to move your wrists and hands more freely.

Experiment with different types of grips for different movements,  including pinching the sticks between your index and middle fingers.

It takes some practice, especially during transitions, but it will give your wings movements and transitions instantly more fluidity.

4. Fluttering Forward

The ‘wings flutter’ is created by a light forward/backward motion of the sticks, NOT by moving them up and down (which is often what I see in classes)

Think of it as shaking a sheet of paper, creating a ripple as it moves back to front.

5. Power and Projection

Dancing with wings can make for some gorgeously powerful effects on stage, but it only works if the movements are supported by a powerful attitude and a sense of outward energy projection.

Use the power of your imagination, visualize the effects the wings are making, lift your gaze slightly, experiment with posture tweaks and breath timing. Above all – don’t be shy to bring on the Drama when the music calls for it!

6. Angles, Angles, Angles

A tiny angle adjustment can make a huge visual difference when working with wings!

Film yourself, work with a mirror, and find the best angles for each of your movements.

Note: The same applies for photoshoots with props!

Photo by Die Elster – www.elster-netz.net

In addition to that, some poses and movements can look very interesting when repeated at a slightly different angle, which you can use for variations on recurring themes in your music.

7. Practice Spins and Turns

Well-timed spins with wings can make for beautiful and powerful moments in your dance.

Take time to practice different turning variations, with varying arm (and wrist!)  positions, spotting techniques and body angles.

Adding level changes can make for interesting turning accents as well.

8. Bodylines and Movement

As with all props, it can be tempting to forget about dancing with the most important element: your body.

Experiment with beautiful body lines, stay aware of your posture, your expression and most of all – remember to actually DANCE.

Photo by @krzysztof.kozicki

A good way to test whether ‘propification’ is happening, is to practice or perform and film your wings (or prop of choice) solo a few times, without using the actual prop.

Does it still look like you are really dancing? Does the dance look ‘complete’ and musical? Are you using the stage well? Are you conscious of your movements? If not – adapt! And then try again.

9. Find your Power Moves

A few highlights and ‘power moves’ can help make a dance more interesting and exciting for you as well as for your audience.

What this power move is exactly will depend on your mood, your persona, your music, your costume, and even (especially if you are improvising), the moment itself.

It can be a spin, a beautiful pose, a backbend, an unexpected accent, or even a well-timed look.

In any case, be sure to always give your powermove it’s proper setting: a great placement on the stage/dance floor, a buildup before, and a brief pause after.

Don’t rush it. Ever. Enjoy.

10. Grab a Friend 🙂

Last but not least: dancing with wings can be double the fun with a partner, or even a group!

I have on several occasions adapted wing solos for groups and/or duets, and I’ve always deeply enjoyed both the process and the result.

You can try mirroring, canon, formations, duo level variations.. The possibilities are legion.

To get started, I’ve shared some special moves and combinations for duets on my ‘Wings with Khalida’ online instructional video and DVD. It also contains tips for turns and spins.

PS: As a thank you to my readers, use code ‘wings’ for 15% off ALL of my online instructionals and DVDs at www.khalidadance.com/online-classes and www.khalidadance.com/DVDs

Enjoy – and feel free to share this post (and the discount code!) if you like it.

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