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How to Do an Arabesque: 8 Tips for Performing an Arabesque

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: May 13, 2020 • 3 min read

An arabesque is a classical ballet move. The ballet dancer stands on one leg with the other leg straight back behind them. These tips below will give you the skills to master an arabesque pose.

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What is an Arabesque?

An arabesque is a ballet position in which the dancer is supported on one leg, either straight or demi-plié, while the other leg is extended straight behind and at a right angle. The shoulders are square and the arms are held in various positions to create a long line from fingertips to toes. An arabesque can be executed en pointe or flat foot.

How to Perform an Arabesque

Successfully completing a perfect arabesque is dependent on body position and support. It all about how the dancer stands. These steps below will give you the foundation to perform a traditional arabesque.

  1. Warm-up. Before beginning any position or pose, stretch, and warm up your body. This can prevent pulled muscles or injury, especially if you're a new dancer or ballerina.
  2. Begin in first position. All barre exercises begin in first position. The heels are kept together, and the feet are turned outward in a straight line. Your arms should be relaxed in front of you.
  3. Shift your weight to the supporting leg. Your supporting leg is the one that stays planted on the ground. Turn out the supporting leg and shift your weight to it.
  4. Extend your working leg. In an arabesque position, your back leg is the working leg. Glide the working leg behind you. Point the toe as you position the leg, then place the ball of the foot flat on the ground.
  5. Support your core and upper body. Ballet is all about connecting the body. Keep your shoulders square with your rib cage and hips.
  6. Raise your arms. Lift both arms. One arm is at your side, while the other is lifted in front of you. You can also place your sidearm on the barre for balance.
  7. Lift your working leg. Use your core and supporting leg muscles for balance as you lift your working leg behind you. Both legs are completely straight (careful not to hyperextend), and the toes on your working leg are pointed.
  8. Lean forward. With both arms in the air and your working leg up behind you, slowly lean forward. Engage your abdomen to control your upper body as you move. Keep your back straight.

You can use either your left or right leg as your supporting leg. Choose which leg to start on based on the placement of the barre.

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4 Variations of an Arabesque

There are four variations to the traditional arabesque, all of which are dependent on the arm placement. The footwork is the same for all arabesques.

  1. First arabesque. Extend the arm of the working leg back and diagonally. The arm of the supporting leg is extended forward and straight.
  2. Second arabesque. Set the arm of the working forward and straight, slightly above shoulder height. Extend the arm of the supporting leg back and diagonally, and lower than the other arm.
  3. Third arabesque. Both arms are extended straight forward and are 12 inches apart. Raise the arm of the standing leg higher than the other. The arm of the working leg is squared with the shoulders and is slightly lower than that of the standing leg.
  4. Fourth arabesque. As with the third variation, both arms are forward and one foot apart. Raise the arm of the working leg higher than the other. The arm of the supporting leg is squared with the shoulders and is slightly lower than that of the working leg.

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