Tips, tricks, and exercises to help you execute your arabesque flawlessly.

1. Strength

The first thing a dancer must develop in order to execute a beautiful arabesque line is strength. Although skilled dancers can make an arabesque look easy, they are actually utilizing an amazing amount of strength in the back, legs, rotators, abdominals, and arms to create and hold the shape. 

Exercise to try: Hyperextensions

Lie on your stomach (on the floor or on a yoga ball) with your legs straight and your arms behind your head. Gently engage your abdominals and spine to pull your chest up off the ball or floor. You should extend through a diagonal line, ensuring that you don’t “crunch” the lower spine. Lower and repeat. 

2. Flexibility

Once a dancer has the strength to execute a flawless arabesque, he or she will need to develop flexibility in the hamstrings, spine, and rotators. The height of the arabesque is irrelevant if the working leg is not fully extended through the knee, the spine is not lengthened, and the standing leg is not rotated. This all requires a suppleness that can only be achieved with adaquate stretching.

Exercise to try: Penché on the wall

Position your standing foot a few inches from the wall with your hands on the floor and your arabesque against the wall behind you. Keep your head and spine relaxed down, try to lift your leg from the wall. Rest the leg back to the wall and repeat. 

3. Weight Distribution

The ideal arabesque is all about weight distribution and counterbalance. The dancer must simultaneously ground the standing leg and lift the spine away from the hips. In order to do this, he or she should think of the standing leg as a corkscrew, rotating into the floor, and think of the spine as lengthening up and out to avoid crunching. 

The other necessary counterbalance is between the toes and the fingers. In order to achieve the maximum amount of length in the arabesque line, a dancer should imagine equal energy going out through the working toes and the forward hand. This length will aid with both stability and stretch.

Exercise to try: Cambré Arabesque

Face the barre in first position, holding the barre with both hands. Tendu the right leg derriere and feel the natural curve of the back. From there, cambré back and feel the curve deepen. Remain in the cambré and lift the tendu leg as much as possible. Then, continue to raise the leg, keeping the same curve of the spine, and allow your arabesque leg to lead your torso to a vertical position. You should be in your maximum arabesque at the top. Return to first position and repeat on the other side. 

4. Rotation

Most dancers are aware that a beautiful arabesque requires turn out. However, fewer dancers realize that in order to counterbalance the rotation in the lower half of the body, there should also be a rotation in the upper half of the body. Beyond simply rotating the standing and working legs, the dancer must have an oppositional rotation in the rib cage, creating an “S” shape in the body. For example, if the left leg is lifted in arabesque, the dancer should pull up through the front of the left hip and rotate the right side of the rib cage back to remain square. 

Exercise to try: Lunge with spinal rotation

Stand in parallel first position. Take the right leg back to a lunge, keeping the left leg bent at a 90 degree angle. Meet your palms in front of your chest in a “prayer” position. Keeping your hips square to the front, rotate your rib cage toward the left and put your right elbow on the outside of your left knee. For eight counts, push your right elbow against the knee to help you deepen the rotation of the spine. Keep the right hip long and relaxed. Return to parallel and repeat to the other side.

5. Port de Bras

Port de bras in an essential part of a beautiful arabesque line and too often forgotten by dancers of all ages. Many dancers are in the habit of lifting the arms and shoulders, which causes the spine to look short and makes the leg look lower in comparison. Instead, the dancer should keep the arms in line with the center of the body and engage the back to push the arms and shoulders down. The dancer should be able to lift the chest and chin enough to look out over the finger tips. 

Exercise to try: Port de bras with ankle weights

Attach ankle weights to your wrists. Bring your arms through first to fifth and then lower to a first arabesque line with the right arm forward. Hold for eight counts and then return to fifth position. Lower through second to bras bas position. Begin again, this time stretching the left arm forward in first arabesque. Be sure to move from the back, as opposed to lifting from the elbows or wrists. 

Team BoPPA x