Integrating Armwork into Hoopdance

January 2, 2015 Caroleeena DanceGif StoryhoopdanceUncategorized

Hoopdance is made up of more than just a hoop moving around the waist. It also includes armwork, footwork, directed gaze, gestures, traveling steps, turns and spins, characterization, beat punctuation, musicality, and, of course, hoop moves. For many hoopers, though, the first question is usually, “What do I do with my arms!?!”

In armwork, there are two basic categories of movements — resting arms and active arms.

Resting Arms

Resting arms include arm movements that are still or almost still and don’t require a lot of energy or strength to maintain. These are really helpful for new hoopers and they build up the upper body strength that is required for holding your arms up for long periods of time. Some examples of resting arms include:

  • arms crossed above head
  • arms crossed at chest
  • hands in prayer position at the heart or above the head
  • reverse prayer above head
  • one palm up, the other palm down and resting atop it, horizontally, at the heart (This is my favorite for new hoopers because it gets the elbows out of the way and you can dance with it by simply swiveling the hands so that the fingers point right, then left, right, then left…)
  • fists or blade hands resting on the lower ribs, elbows out (or on the hip bones if you’re low hip or leg hooping)
  • fist-to-fist or fist-to-palm in front of the face or chest
  • holding wrist-to-wrist
  • hip hop arms (arms crossed, fingers tucked under the armpits)
  • resting the side of the index finger(s) at the temple(s)
  • fingers locked behind the head

Semi-Resting Arms

A semi-resting position is when one hand is in a resting position and the other is doing a dance move. These positions are also good for the free hand when the other hand is on the hoop. These are some of the good places for resting one hand.Vogue vogue1

  • small of the back
  • side of the hip or waist
  • against the temple
  • against the side of the face
  • behind the head
  • same shoulder
  • opposite shoulder
  • collar bone
  • hand on heart
  • hand under chin
  • hand between shoulder blades from above
  • hand between shoulder blades from below
  • arm hanging long
  • inner elbow and forearm atop head

Dancing With One Active Hand

Some semi-resting hand movements for one hand include:

  • turning on the bathtub faucet
  • screwing in a light bulb
  • dolphin jumping through water
  • putting apples in a basket (hands are at the waist, then you reach out with one or both, and turn them in the air like you’re picking an apple off a tree, then return the closed fist to the waist )
  • jazz hand(s)
  • spirit fingers
  • snapping
  • flicking boogers
  • finger rolls
  • gestures (blowing kisses, fanning, waving, ok signs, etc.)
  • pointing

And My Aunt And I Started Doing These Same Dances And It Was Rad Dancing animated GIF

Semi-Resting Moves for Two Hands

Some semi-resting movements for two hands include:

  • one palm up, the other palm down and resting atop it at the heart and swiveling back and forth like you’re “mashing up a baby bumble bee” from the old kid’s song
  • one hand waving while that elbow rests atop the back of the fingers of  the opposite hand
  • hands rest on opposite shoulders then drag past each other to same shoulder
  • wiping dandruff off shoulders
  • hands rest on same shoulders then do “gay yo-yo’s” (from the 1:00 mark in the video below):

Active Arms

Active arms include exploring the full range of motion with the arms — above, below, in front, behind, open to one side, open to the opposite side, dropping down the center or opening the arms to the sides. The hands can move in conjunction with one another or in opposition to one another. One can rest while the other does all the movement. The permutations are endless.

Some active arm movements include:

  • ballet arms (1st position, 2nd position, 3rd position – both open and closed – moving singly or together)Circles Graphic
  • flamenco arms (rounded arms, like you’re holding a basket – arms can be opened or closed. Think “wax on” and “wax off” from the 80’s version of The Karate Kid.)
  • hula arms (arms straight out to the sides, then fold one in at the elbow, then the other til fingertips meet, then open the first again, then open the second again)
  • snake arms (with the palms facing inwards toward your body. elbows slightly bent, lift one shoulder, then elbow, then wrist, then drop the shoulder, then the elbow, then the wrist, then do the same thing on the other side of the body. move between them until you have a smooth undulation.)
  • bird arms (lift from the shoulders, or elbows, or wrists to high above the head, then whoosh down like a bird taking flight. This is also very pretty if you let the wrists touch on the under side.)
  • lines or straight arms (like Vogue dancing, arms out, arms up, arms forward, arms bent at the elbows to create 90-degree angles, arms bent at the wrists to create 90-degree angles)

This armwork is outside circles with the arms and outside circles with the hands:


Practice floating the arms up and floating the arms down — to the sides and to the front. Use a mirror but do it without a mirror too. Even do it blindfolded. Learn to feel it in your body.

Practice leading these floats up and then down from different parts of the arm — first with the shoulder, then with the elbow, then with the wrist, then with the tip of the pointer finger like you’re conducting an orchestra . Experience the different effects that each create. With time and repetition, these will become part of your pallet of arm movements that you can choose from as you decide how to express in each dance.

Swan Arms lead with the elbows:

Three basic hand poses for armwork are blade hands, fists, and splayed fingers. This article talks more about hands and fingers:

You don’t have to be in your hoop to practice. Practice whenever you have a free minute. I used to work in an office and every time I’d go to the bathroom, I would float my arms up and down as I’d walk down the hall. I’d also do it whenever I’d take the stairs. Any private place. I also do this as I glide across my living room and into the kitchen to get a drink of water or while I’m waiting in the kitchen for something to cook in the microwave. Seek out opportunities to practice arm work, both in and out of the hoop. It’s all about practice and repetition and building muscle memory, just like hooping.

Dance composition kinesphereOnce you have developed some arm movements that you like, consider adding in some complementary hand movements or finger movements. These details add a lot to your dance and they’re fun to practice. Just as your arms can do outside circles or inside circles, so, too, can your wrists. The fingers also. And your arms, hands and fingers can all do circles at the same time, staying in the same direction or moving in opposing directions. One of my favorites is to do an inside circle with my hand while doing and outside circle with my arm. The possibilities are truly endless and a lot of fun to explore.

This is just the tiniest smattering of all the arm movements available to you as a hoopdancer. It’s easy to pick up new moves you like. I draw a lot of inspiration from So You Think You Can Dance, which samples many different kinds of dance and uses some of the best choreographers in the US. Old musicals are also great. YouTube is also full of inspiration.

Here is a fun video that has a simple, fun Vogue choreography and also samples from great dance movies going back decades:


arms and handsarmworkdancehoopdanceusing arms in hoopdance

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