Ballet Glossary: Arabesque

All about arabesque! Learn what an arabesque is and how to make the most of this fundamental ballet step in your next dance class, performance or Ballet Beautiful workout:

Arabesque is one of the classic positions in ballet, where the working leg is fully straight extending long behind the dancer either on the floor (a terre) or in the air (en l’air). The supporting (standing) leg can be straight or in a demi-plié. Arabesque can be performed in several variations: first, second, third or fourth arabesque. The variations are based on the position of the arms which create the longest line from the fingers to the toes.

First Arabesque: When the dancer is standing in the arabesque position with the supporting leg straight or in plié and working leg stretched long behind them either on the floor or lifted of the ground. Extend the same arm as leg that is behind the dancer to the side or slight diagonal back, and extend the same arm as the supporting leg out in front of the dancer at shoulder height or slightly higher.

Second Arabesque: Beginning in the arabesque position with the legs. Extend the same arm as leg that is behind in front either at shoulder height or slightly higher, and the arm of the standing leg out to the side or slight diagonal back in second position.

Third Arabesque: Begin in the arabesque position with both arms extended to the front with both elbows straight. The arm on the same side as the standing leg should be lifted so that the hand is in line with the top of the head. The arm on the side of the leg in arabesque should be in line with the shoulder or slightly lower. The arms should be about a foot apart.

In this video Mary Helen breaks it all down for us. She shows us exactly what an arabesque is, and what the basic arabesque positions look like:

Put it into action in our new Ballet Beautiful Body fitness series!