Hand Movement in a Belly Dance

by Brenda Priddy
Belly dancing includes a variety of hand movements.

Belly dancing includes a variety of hand movements.

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The majority of belly dancing involves moving the waist, hips and belly. However, to complete the effect of the dance, a belly dancer must also perform hand and arm movements. While dancing, her arms are neither floppy nor rigid; they move fluidly in controlled movements that fit the background music and the movement of her hips. Belly dancers typically hold their hands and arms in one of three positions, or move them into shaped patterns. Advanced belly dancers will combine several hand positions or shapes at once.

Low Level

Low level movements include any hand movements completed below the waist. While belly dancers do not use this position often, they can use it as a transition movement or to rest their arms between higher movements. The arms can still flow freely while held in this position, but they should move to another position as soon as possible. Dancers sometimes also use low level hand movements when making patterns or shapes.

Medium Level

Belly dancers complete many of the hand movements at the medium level, including shapes, patterns and waves. The medium level is the area between the waist and shoulders. The dancer moves her arms anywhere in front, to the sides and slightly behind her body within this area.

High Level

High level movements occur above the shoulders. A belly dancer will often complete high level hand movements when performing complicated waist or hip movements to draw attention to that area instead of the arms. The arms move in front, on top or to the sides of the head or shoulders. Often a belly dancer will twirl the wrists or make other small movements with her hands even when they are held in high position.


Forming shapes with the hands is part of what belly dancing is all about. The goal is to achieve fluid, strong movements, like the movement of a snake through grass. The belly dancer can make geometric patterns, such as circles, right angle movements, parallel movements or horizontal arms. The dancer may also twirl the hands and arms together in a complicated pattern.

Photo Credits

  • Zedcor Wholly Owned/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images