How To Teach Arm Positions in Ballet

First developed during the Renaissance, ballet has evolved through the centuries into a graceful art that is being taught to countless girls around the world. There are several notable training techniques of ballet, each possessing a distinct aesthetic and emphasis to the different aspects of this beautiful art form. For example, the arm positions of each technique vary to complement the movements of the legs, head and body. While you may focus on teaching the technique you yourself have trained in, you may also explore the other styles in order to address certain weak points for individual students or extend their range. No matter what you choose, every one of these techniques demands hard work and discipline from the students, in order to display the grace and elegance that ballet is known for.

Here is a guide for teaching arm positions in ballet in three different schools.

French Ballet

  • Preparatory position. Keep the back straight and let the arms extend in front of the body. The arms are rounded with the fingers kept near each other.
  • First position. While the arms remain rounded, the hands are raised in front of the body to the level of the navel.
  • Second position. The arms are raised along the sides until the elbows are just below the shoulders. Both arms are rounded and the shoulders kept down.
  • Third position. The left arm is raised above the head while the right arm is kept at navel height. Both palms face forward.
  • Fourth position. The left arm is brought forward while the right arm is raised above the head.
  • Fifth position. From the first position, both arms are raised over the head. Both palms face inwards, with the distance between the hands kept at six inches.

Italian Ballet

  • First position. Both arms are held besides the thighs in a relaxed form.
  • Second position. The arms are raised along the sides until both elbows are just below the shoulders.
  • Third position. One arm is kept besides the thigh while the other arm is held along the side.
  • Fourth position. There are two fourth positions for Italian ballet. The Fourth en avant has one arm kept in the second position while the other arm is held in front. Fourth en haut has one arm in the second position while the other arm is held above the head.
  • Fifth position. Both arms are rounded while the fingers are kept near each other. They can be held low, in front of the body or above the head.

Russian Ballet

  • Preparatory position. Both hands are kept in front of the hips, with the arms slightly rounded and fingers held near to each other.
  • First position. The arms are raised to the height of the navel while kept in their rounded position.
  • Second position. The arms are raised along the sides until the both elbows are slightly below the shoulders.
  • Third position. Both arms are raised above the head and held slightly forward so that the dancer’s eyes can see both hands.


With constant practice, the arm positions should become second nature to ballet students. This will let them focus on their legs, movements and timing during advanced variations.

 

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