@Kansas B., USA
Hi there, I am having a hard time with my arabesque lately I was wondering how do I get it higher?☺
Messages like these are a bit of a challenge for me, as ballet excersises and correct ballet positions are not exactly my field of knowledge. But during all these years, I have collected lots of books, videos and web sources upon the topic, so I am trying to provide some tips, always with a disclaimer that I might be wrong at times...
Arabesque: top tips collection
To begin with, one good way for you to start is to work and enhance your back flexibility.
The most graceful thing about a perfect arabesque is not the standing leg or the working foot, but the graceful curve in the spine as the leg is extended. Your back’s flexibility will determine the height of your arabesque.
Use the Cobra stretch to gently increase the curve in your spine and take every opportunity to practice your cambrés. The more flexible your spine, the easier it will be to raise and hold the leg in arabesque.
Secondly, the position of your arms is also important.
Keep your arms stabilized, don’t force your shoulder out of its socket when you extend your arm.
Never reach forward with your shoulder. This will destabilize your arabesque and the twist caused in the spine will ruin the arched, upright line. Instead, reach outward from the elbow to the finger tips and lengthen inward from the elbow to the shoulder.
Once you’ve mastered the inward/outward pull sensation, beautiful arms can both stabilize and raise your arabesque, especially in center adagios.
It's really necessary that you focus on your supporting leg, too.
With most of the focus on the height of your working leg, it can be easy to forget about your supporting leg. Think of drilling the leg away from your torso and into the ground like a corkscrew to help keep your turnout, and avoid “sinking” into the hip socket. Keep your weight even over the ball of your foot. To help avoid rolling in towards your arch, work on strengthening your ankles. Avoid resting back on your heel. Your supporting leg should be perpendicular to the floor to properly support the rest of the arabesque.
When it comes to the working leg, keep your hips ''square''.
There are many quick, easy ways to instantly achieve a higher arabesque, but the well known “cheats,” including twisting the shoulders and opening the hips, are unreliable and technically incorrect. Resist using such shortcuts, and instead, improve your extension by strengthening your back and keeping square alignment.
Start from tendu, then work your way up to a 45 degree arabesque, keeping your hips and shoulders perfectly centered. Eventually you’ll build up to 90 degrees—then more. Taking slower, more gradual steps will ensure that your alignment is only compromised as much as is necessary and never more.
Also, this method will strengthen your entire body, making the arabesque easier to sustain at any height.
Holding your turnout to the back is more difficult than in any other position, but working through it will build strength for all positions—devant, a la séconde, and derriere. Additionally, if your arabesque isn’t turned out, it will break the clean line and lose aesthetic quality, especially if reached through attitude.
To improve, engage your turnout muscles (the ones around your butt) and rotate the working leg as much as you can. Repeatedly pushing your physical boundaries will improve your arabesque (and your turnout), even if you are unable to turn it out completely.
Finally, let's don't forget how important is to work with your chest.
Pushing your chest forward in arabesque can help lengthen the spine and prevent a “crunched” look. Imagine a string tied around your sternum; when you’re in arabesque, think about someone gently pulling that string forward, lifting your chest upward and out.This will prevent your chest from dropping back and knocking your weight onto your standing heel, a mistake that can really throw you off balance en pointe, in promenades, in arabesque and penchés.