The Position That Makes Ballet, well ballet…
Sara Michelle Murawski’s, a soloist at Slovak National Ballet, super famous arabesque picture that probably one of the first pictures that made dancers addicted to instagram.
Contemporary Dancers have the tilt, jazz dancers have the layout, but ballet dancers have arabesque.
For those of you who are auditioning for the first time, the reason why everyone asks for an arabesque picture is for the following reasons: arabesque is one of the hardest positions to make in ballet, and it shows your turn out, flexibility, hyperextension and feet in on photo without hating yourself. If ballet auditions asked for, say…ecarte derrière… no one would audition… ever.
Now, there is a great debate of what arabesque technique is correct, or where it actually comes from, but should we really get into all of that mess? Maybe, just little bit. Just generalizing some things about companies that have a very specific type of arabesque.
Royal Ballet, the Ashton Arabesque is this super classical, dreamy position that requires the following: a hypermobile back, beautifully arched feet, and rarely is placed above 90 degrees. In addition, I think the artists of the Royal Ballet are the only ones that don’t let the supporting leg turn in. Their turn out is bangin. The arms are always super relaxed, and rarely go above their faces. Ultimate restraint. (Royal Ballet’s arabesque line isn’t the RAD line. I don’t believe in the RAD method, so I am not going to talk about it.)
Plus, who doesn’t love some Sarah Lamb on any given day? Ironically, she is an American, with Russian training, dancing a Jerome Robbin’s piece set on NYCB, but staged on Royal Ballet.
The Russians have their own arabesque line as well. They are known for their incredible height and stretch. Besides the majority of women coming out of Vaganova school are beasts, their primas have create this unique fragile but stretched arm position. Standing leg is turned in.
For the sake of irony, the super stunning Uliana Lopatkina, a Russian Dancing a Balanchine piece set on Bolshoi.
Then we have the super “classical” arabesque which is the mish mosh of cecchetti, vaganova and french… which is now lumped into the category of classical:
Perfect turn out, not so hyper mobile, lifted up and forward, relaxed elbow, and spatula hands… just kidding, just a soft middle finger down…
Then we have the Balanchine Arabesque, which isn’t really a change in the principals of arabesque, but more of the arm and hand positions.
Ashley Bouder and Jonathan Stafford in Tchai Pas. Ironically, everyone calls their hands the claw… or that they are really wristy, but Russians are more… aka the super stunning and talented force Evgenia Obraztsova
And then finally, there is the Paris Opera Arabesque… which is basically like the impossible arabesque. Which is only possible if you are well… given everything and trained at Paris Opera.
Another Irony, Paris Opera is the home of ballet, and here we have the Sylvie Guillem in a contemporary work. I have never really understood the Paris Opera arabesque besides it looking beyond perfect. David Hallberg who trained at POB has one of those arabesque that are beyond pulled up. A lot of the etoiles of paris opera have these super raised hips.
Another note… we gag on arabesque pictures on IG and tumblr, but the reality is… do we ever see these massive arabesques on stage… unless you are russian… Or Dark Angel in Serenade? I think the “style” of arabesque also comes from the role you are doing, the tempo of music, etc.
Now, here are some things that are really difficult for young dancers when it comes to arabesque…
Higher isn’t always better.
Being Square is in reference that both pelvic bones are on the same level of space.
Tilting your hip is really just for side extension.
Things regardless of what “style” of arabesque you are doing…
Your spinal chord can’t be compromised…
You either have a hyper mobile back and hips or you don’t.
Regardless of the arm placement, the torso doesn’t twist…
My favorite motto when teaching: when in doubt, turn out.
Finding what arabesque works on your body is really important as well. If you look at the women of NYCB, none of them have the same arabesque line. You have to find what looks best on your body… for anything in ballet, but especially for arabesque. As you develop into an artist you find your stride in arabesque, and what looks best on your body type. Arm placement, stretch, reach, quality… Those are the things that really distinguish an arabesque. No two professional arabesques are the same. When training, it might be a different story, but because no body is alike, the technique looks different on everyone.