of the most difficult positions to master in ballet technique, is the arabesque. The arabesque
is one of the most well known and most easily recognizable
ballet positions. This position, especially on pointe, is not
an easy one. A developed arabesque is quite a beautiful sight
when at it’s full potential.
The arabesque requires a great deal of strength and balance.
This is one of the positions that shows just how seasoned a dancer really is. A highly rotated hip placement,
a great turnout, a high backward leg extension joined with
perfect form and balance… Many barré and stretching
exercises are dedicated to the arabesque. As soon as the
strength, flexibility and form come together, the dancer then
becomes ready to work on her arabesque.
Arabesque in attitude on pointe
The student needs to 'pull out' of herself when in arabesque.
The leg pulls out and away, growing from the socket, the arm
in the opposite direction and the entire body reaches
upwards. It’s a growing position, not a static one.
Arabesque is a position where the leg meets the back in a
marvelous line. It helps for the lower back to be flexible as well
as the hips and hamstrings. When first starting the arabesque
be sure to keep the leg low; the form needs to get solid
before trying to extend too high! Stand up straight on the
supporting leg, pull the chest up let the neck rest
comfortably on top of the shoulders. Keep the shoulders down
and rolled into position, don’t let the tension get caught
in this area. This happens to a lot of dancers and they get a
build up of stress in the muscles around the neck and
shoulders. The neck should not be with tension in it, it
should be long and graceful.
Arm positions vary with the arabesque. Fourth position arms
can accompany it but oftentimes a choreographer or teacher
will require second or fifth position as well, or the classic
open arm pose (as shown in the last picture below). Fifth
position arms in arabesque is the most difficult. This
position requires perfect body placement, the arms will not
be a help to your balance. This is why body placement and
form need to be solid.
The line from the arm, through the body, and out the leg,
should never break. It is especially crucial in penché.
Never break back, and don’t lean backward. A lot of dancers
compensate a penché by leaning back, this will cause you to
fall out of your arabesque. If you practice it this way in
class, your pointe work will inevitably suffer.
An inevitable movement that will accompany arabesque is
promenade. This is where you will hold your arabesque, and
will slowly turn in a showcase type fashion. This movement
will be important to your adagio, which is by far, one of the
most difficult aspects of ballet technique. The arabesque
will also be used in faster turns, lifts and jumps. Plié
will also be required in this position, this takes a great
deal of balance and form. The shape of the arabesque stays
the same in plié. It shouldn’t get settled on the heel but
should stay over the demi pointe or the pointe. The solid
form of arabesque is something every student should strive to
perfect. It is a landmark in a student’s progress when this
pose is understood.
Classic low arabesque on flat
Some of the pitfalls of arabesque include lifting the hip,
leaning, an inflexible lower back, tight hamstrings, and a
weak back… there are many factors that can make your
arabesque suffer. Barré work is very important to the
arabesque. Learning to extend up and out is important. It
takes a dancer years before the arabesque looks flawless and
solid. But once it’s developed, we see the essence of
ballet, wrapped up in one single stance. Nothing is more
beautiful then a graceful arabesque!