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(aa rah besk) Literally, "in Arabic fashion". In classical ballet, the term arabesque indicates a position of the body where the dancer stands on one leg behind the body, with both knees straight. The arabesque position can be performed with the supporting leg and foot either en pointe, demi pointe or on a flat foot. The back leg may either touch the floor in tendu back (called arabesque par terre), or be raised at an angle. Common angles are 45° (also called à demi hauteur), and 90° (à la hauteur). When the angle is much greater than 90° and the body leans forward to counterbalance the back leg, the pose is called arabesque penchée. There are also various arm and leg combinations, such as forward on the same side as the back leg or the other arm forward. There are multiple arabesque positions and each ballet syllabus has different variations of these positions.
In the Vaganova method there are four basic arabesque positions. They are here described for a dancer facing Vaganova's fixed point 8 of the stage (that is, a dancer facing the front left corner of the stage). In class practice, the arms are always level with the shoulders (arabesque de classe), while in performance the arm in front may be raised above shoulder level (arabesque de scene). The elbows are always facing downwards.
In the first arabesque, the dancer stands in effacé position (for point 8, facing the front left corner, with the left foot in front) with the right leg raised in arabesque, the right arm extended to the side (to the audience) and the left arm extended front (towards the corner). The gaze follows the line of the arm extended en avant.
In the second arabesque the legs are like in the first arabesque, but the right arm is extended en avant while the left arm is extended a little behind the dancer's shoulder; the shoulders are in épaulement in line with the arms and the gaze is turned to the audience.
In the third arabesque the dancer stands in croisé position (for point 8, facing the front left corner, the right foot is in front) with the left leg raised in arabesque, the right arm extended to the side and a little behind the shoulder, and the left arm extended front. The gaze follows the line of the arm extended en avant.
In the fourth arabesque position the dancer stands in croisé as for the third arabesque, but the right arm is extended front and the left arm is extended as far back as possible in line with the right arm. The shoulders are in strong épaulement and the gaze is turned to the audience.
It is probably the most well known Ballet pose in popular culture.
In all syllabi, first, second, and fourth arabesques are universal. In other syllabi, such as Cecchetti, third arabesque is significantly different. In this syllabus, the leg farthest from the audience is the supporting leg. Both arms extend forward, with the arm farther from the audience positioned higher than the other.