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12 Ways to Improve Your Arabesque

Photo Credit: Kathrin Ziegler | Getty Images

Photo Credit: Kathrin Ziegler | Getty Images


graceful display of flexibility and strength, the arabesque is a must in every ballet performance. If you’re a beginner dancer, you may be frustrated by the height of your leg or the challenge of creating that perfect slope in your back. But like any other dance move, an awe-inspiring arabesque takes practice. From keeping your hips square to lengthening your back, here are 12 tips that will help you improve this classic ballet position from head to toe:

Supporting Leg

  • 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.

Working Leg

  • Keep your hips “square.” Resist the urge to open your hips or twist your shoulders.
  • Engage your turnout muscles—the “dancer’s dent”—but don’t turnout more as you lift the leg. (This opens the hip and puts pressure on your low back.)
  • Lengthen and straighten your leg, feet, and toes. This may seem like an obvious tip, but it’s easy to forget when you’re focusing on other aspects of the body.

Torso and Spine

  • The “perfect” arabesque has a graceful curve in your spine, which means your back flexibility determines the height of your working leg. To help improve your flexibility in your lower back, practice mastering your cambrés (a classic ballet term meaning “arched,” a cambré is the bending of a dancer’s waist and stretching backward or sideways, following the movement of the upper body and arms).
  • Always think of lengthening your back to keep from “crunching” the spine, especially in the lower back and neck.

Head, Arms and Shoulders

  • Lift your chest upward and out.
  • Square the rib cage and shoulders by bringing the working leg side of your torso even with the standing leg side.
  • When you reach your fingertips in a classical arabesque, keep your arm within its socket so there is no twist in the torso.
  • Lift your chin and keep the arm low enough to look out and over your fingertips.