Sword dancing is a spectacular addition to a Middle Eastern Dance Routine.
It can be exciting and captivating. The sword adds a level of mystique and a ‘touch
of danger’. Because the sword is a weapon, the dancer must remember that the
‘touch of danger is very real. Swords made for dancing are not usually sharpened
for dueling; however, by their very nature, are indeed dangerous and can inflict
wounds. Therefore, it is extremely imperative that any dancer employing a sword
in her routine be thoroughly experienced with balancing and be absolutely certain
that the sword will not come flying off her head into the audience. Sword dancing
is for the advanced dancer. It should only he added to a dancer’s show after
thoroughly mastering all the steps that are to be employed. This can take many
years of practice.
Purchase a dancing sword that is made specifically for dance from a reputable Middle Eastern Dance supplier. Try not
to purchase a sword through the mail, it is important to test the weight and balance before purchase. Take care of your sword
and always keep it away from unruly audience members who might grab it up to try a few moves. If dropped on the ground
hard, the sword may he knocked out of balance.
When performing with a sword, never permit yourself a drop of alcohol. As little as one ounce of wine or other drink
can greatly affects one’s ability to balance the sword. Don’t Drink and Sword Dance!
The use of head wraps can make balancing much easier. Depending upon the shape of your head, you may or may not
need a head wrap. Some dancers are blessed with heads made for balancing objects, nice and fiat on top or with a little
indentation. Others seemed cursed for balancing possessing hills and valleys and even round knots. Everyone’s head is different
- hard to tell under all that hair. Hair also plays a crucial role in balancing. Fine silky hair makes it nearly impossible to balance a
sword, while coarse, thick curly hair makes a bed that the sword can nestle into. If you are going for the bare head approach, it
helps to tease the top of your head where the sword will rest and then douse this spot with tacky hairspray such as Final Net.
Another ‘trick of the trade’ is to rub the edge of your sword blade (the balancing spot) with beeswax (sold in sewing stores to
strengthen thread). This greatly helps to keep the sword from sliding back and forth. (This helpful wax can also be used on the
ends of canes to keep them from flying out of your hands).
Sword balancing takes great concentration, so again, you need to know your steps and how to play the zils very well.
The head must he kept in a level position. Don’t drop or lift your chin or turn your head suddenly. All dance movements with
the exception of head movements and torso drops can be added to a dance routine.
MOST EFFECTIVE SWORD ROUTINE STRUCTURE
For a sword routine to be most effective, the movements should start out slow. Start with simple movements and work
up to more complicated moves and tricks towards the end. First manipulate the sword in its case. Take time removing the
sword from the case with some clever moves and poses. Let the audience think it is really difficult to balance the sword on
your head. Begin with standing movements or you could begin on the floor with knee slides and such. Add shimmies and fast
hip movements later in the routine and finally end the routine with spinning.
Various movements with the sword on head
Snake arms at shoulder and Snake arms out in front
Classic Arms and Inside Classic Arms
Shoulder isolations and shimmies
Belly Rolls and flutters
Arabic and Egyptian Camels, Camels in a circle
Hips slides up and down
Figure 8’s with hips, forward and backward (try walking backward on the forward Fig. 8 and forward on the backward fig. 8)
Hip circles, large and small, and, turning in a circle
Hip circles with added shimmy or added heel bounces
Hips Slides Up and Down and Hip Slides Side to Side
Hips Slides Down with added vibration
Hip Shimmies up and side to side, 3/4 hip shimmies side to side and up and down
Hip Shimmy Walk
FLOOR WORK: You can include floor work in a sword routine. It is nice to add different levels. Moves include many of the
above isolations which can also be done on the knees such as arm movements, rib movements, belly rolls, and snake hips up
Exciting movements include Vibration on Knees, spinning with the sword on your head, and lying back on the floor with the
sword on your belly while you perform belly rolls. Other movements include knee slides, Berber knee walks and floor rolls.
Slides and Poses: On your knees you slide across the floor one knee at a time. With each knee slide take the sword to one side
of the body high over head and pose. Continue sliding and posing.
Sitting Turn: From a sitting position, slide the right leg to the rear in a straight position. Arms are gracefully out to the side in
basic position. Roll the left hip to the floor to begin a turn. Straighten both legs. Next, bend the right leg into the body. Continue
turning while putting your weight on the right leg and at the same lifting your hips to ease the turn. Now the left leg is to the
rear. Bring the left leg forward and you will be in a kneeling position.
Reclining Floor Turn: From a sitting position, recline the body to the right side by sliding, letting your right arm guide you
down to the floor while straightening your left leg. Your right hand and lower arm will be resting on the floor. Your left arm can
rest on the floor in front of your body or rest on your left hip. Carefully and slowly roll towards the left onto your stomach.
Now both legs are straight and hands are out in front of you on the floor. Next, roll onto your left hip by slightly pushing off
with your right hand. Now your weight is supported with your left arm. From this position, you could turn the body slowly in a
circle until you are facing the audience again and then slowly come to a sitting position or you could slowly roll to a sitting
position and go into the Scissors movement.
Scissors with Sword: You have just completed a floor turn and are sitting on the floor with legs extended in front of you. Place
your arms at your sides, cross your legs and lift your hips off the floor.
Vibrate your hips. This is a great place to add belly rolls. Vibrate again and then go into a roll and continue floor work or stand
NEAT SWORD TRICKS TO ADD TO YOUR ROUTINE!
1. Balance the sword on your chin or forehead while in an arched standing backbend.
2. Balance the sword on the side of your hip.
3. Spin with the sword on your outstretched hand.
4. Spin with the sword on your head and then stopping and catching the sword with your hand!
5. It is also fun to twirl the sword, however do not twirl the sword like a baton! This takes away the illusion of danger by
letting the audience know the sword is not really sharp in the middle section. Instead twirl from the base, just below the handle.
Be careful with this one, as you can slice your arm or leg if not extremely careful.