Some of the most common corrections heard in any good ballet class, with a qualified and knowledgable teacher, are typically those concerning the dance student's arms. Beauty of line is one of a dancer's greatest assets and a correctly placed flowing port de bras is vital to a good overall performance.
Here at The Dance Centre Peregian Springs, the beauty, strength and control of the arms is considered to be one of the most important elements of our classical ballet training methodology.
Many of our dance teaching legends preach that on a very simplistic level; legs and feet are responsible for strength, the torso for control and the arms for beauty. The beautiful positioning and carriage of the arms are often found to be the most difficult things to perfect. Needing constant attention from both student and teacher, correctly executed arms should ideally be taught from the very first lesson a tiny dance student takes. There is nothing more difficult and time consuming than having to relearn bad arm and hand positioning for both student and teacher at a later date.
Arms and hands are not only a most wondrous element for an audience to watch, but are vital for good technique. A pirouette cannot be successful if executed with droopy elbows, and jumps will not get far off the ground if the arms and shoulders are tense in mid-air.
There are a few basic rules which any good teacher will insist on just as avidly as demanding pointed feet.
Thumbs should not protrude and fingers mustn't be clamped together, nor should the hand look as though the dancer is holding a hamburger!
The space between the hands should ideally be the width of the dancer's head.
The shape of the arms in bras bas is oval, NOT round.
In RAD fifth position (arms curved overhead), you should be able to just see the little fingers when
maintaining an erect head while rasing the eyes.
When moving the arms, always maintain proper placement and control in the torso and throughout the entire body.
Keep the shoulders naturally placed in the shoulder sockets with the shoulder blades firmly down, spread wide and not pinched together.
Never start the movement of your arms from your wrists or elbows, but use your back and shoulder blades to initiate your arm movements, which should be smooth and flowing.
Avoid tension in the shoulders and remember that the gentle feeling of extension in the arms and hands should always be present.
In raising the arms from one position to another, the Vaganova/RAD first position (the fifth position en avant Cecchetti method) is the most important. It is the pose through which the arms have to pass when raised from one position to another. Practice petit and grand allegro using only the arms so that you know exactly what the arms are doing and then make sure everything is perfectly co-ordinated. A common mistake is missing out the all important first position of the arms in fast allegro which hinders the general technique and can look clumsy.
In a beautifully danced port de bras, the arms should be softly rounded so that the points of the elbows are hardly noticeable and the hands should be simple, graceful and in a continuous line from the arm.
The feeling and intention to move your arms comes from within and there is an all important bond between the head, eyes and arms, neither one can exist in ballet without the other. My old ballet teacher, Noreen Bush, who
was taught by Enrico Ceccheti, and danced with Anna Pavlova, spoke of the Holy Ballet Trinity comprising your soul, eyes and port de bras.