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Arms in 2nd (Vaganova)


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This other day at my summer training with another teacher there we were divided into groups of two in order to watch eachother when we placed our arms in correct 2nd position. Then my partner said something that I really never thought about; that my arms wasn't as wide/straight as the teachers. So to my question:


How much can you bend your arms before they get too bent? Every teacher I've had emphasizes that your arms must be in front of the body, but nobody has told me the opposite; about how far to the side you should go with the arms.


I know that my regular teacher once said that dancers in America usually puts their arms straighter but that she preferred arms that were less to the side. So now I'm worried about getting the bad habit of having the arms too much right in front of the body. Where's the limit?


Is it wrong to going into 2nd by just opening the arms from 1st with the same angle between the upper and lower arm in 2nd as in 1st?

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The arms in 2nd positon in Vaganova have varying stages of development! It is difficult to describe without a reference point, so I will begin in the middle making a lot of assumptions. When the student is first beginning the study of the arm positions, the strength of the back is also being formed, therefore the arms are more rounded than in later years. As for the shape of the arms, if I have understood you correctly, no it is not correct to go

 into 2nd by just opening the arms from 1st with the same angle between the upper and lower arm in 2nd as in 1st?
From 1st position the fingers open the arms forward, outward and slightly upward to second position. The height of the arms in 1st and 2nd are different. If you look sideways in the mirror the elbow will be approximately at the height of the arm pit and in the line of the armpit. From there, there is an arching or rounding of the forearm to the fingers. The palms are facing forward, the pinky finger draws a straight line from the elbow (by this I mean no broken wrists) as if placing the hand and elbow on the piano, as a plate, no teeter-totter. When you hold the position in the 2nd, looking forward in the most advanced form, you should see only the fingers of the hand out of the corner of the eye. Also, take note, women's arms are more rounded and lower than men's arms. The feeling of port de bras (emotion of the movement) is conveyed in many ways, but without the understanding of how one moves the arms, not just the level and shape of the arms, one of the most important aspects of the Vaganova port de bras is missing. Vaganova arms are not just shapes. They are taught as living breathing aspects of movement. Of course the shapes must be learned but remembering that the arms are part of the whole can only help to make the dancer look more professional.


Maybe it could help if you would ask your teacher this question also. You did not say, but I assume this person is teaching the Vaganova method? Try to find a copy of Vaganova, Bazarova/Mey, Kostrovitskaya or Tarasov. These books are a great aid in the basics, but a lot is left out. :D

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Oh! By angle I didn't mean the height of the arms. I meant the "rounding" angle. (The angle inside the arms)


The reason I was wondering about this is how to find my arms when they are hold still at the barre. (I'm not that advanced so we don't do port de bras with the tendus yet)


Yes I do Vaganova (up here there is no other method, I'm afraid :D) and I think that my teacher was taught by a regular teacher from Hungary if that helps. Because she prefers a 2nd with less straight arms (than traditional American dancers) I would really like to maintain that, but where is the limit to how bent your arms should be?

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I really suggest that you ask your teacher this question. The teacher can see you, touch you so this is the better way to know. There is no exact answer. It is visual and to a certain extent individual, based upon proportions and level of training. In the first two years of training the arm movements are not included with the exercises. Perhaps in finishing poses (the last eight counts of the music tacked on to the end of an exercise), the usage of 1st port de bras will be included in barre work. In the centre one should be studying 1st, 2nd and 3rd port de bras in 1st level and 4th and 5th port de bras in the 2nd level of study. The study of arm positions must be well executed in the centre of the room and at the barre.


"rounding" angle. (The angle inside the arms)


There are no angles used in the arms at all. They gently curve. Angles are not part of the way arms are described. The legs, most definitely, but not the arms.


The height of the arms has a lot to do with the shape of the arms. It is all connected. ;)

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Thank you very much vrsfanatic!


I'm going to ask my other SI teacher on monday! Unfortunately I wont be taking class with my regular teacher until early september :D


Sorry about my angle description on everything, that's my mathematical me :D I do realize that you don't have pointy angles in ballet ;)

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Guest grace

Susanne - with the utmost respect to vrsfanatic (as always), and WITHOUT feeling that i am contradicting her MEANING, at all. i DO believe that your original description *IS* correct/acceptable...indeed quite a good way to think of the arm shape in 2nd...

..."going into 2nd by just opening the arms from 1st with the same angle between the upper and lower arm in 2nd as in 1st"
if i try to re-express it, so that we all see our common point of agreement (or not!... ;) ), i will HAVE TO use the concept of an angle, even though we all accept that it is a rounded angle, and that vrsfanatic would prefer it were called something else - OK?


think of the upper arm as 1 stick

think of the lower arm as another stick

join those 2 sticks, 'at the elbow'

MAKE - in front of the body/ in 1st position - (the ANGLE AT THE ELBOW which is) the arm shape you want

now, moving ONLY the shoulder joint, take the arm (2 sticks) outwards from the body centreline, & upwards, to 2nd


i am NOT saying that that is HOW to transfer the arms from 1st to 2nd. i am just trying to replicate the shape that Susanne is talking about.


i personally find this acceptable - NOT the only acceptable position, and probably more often than not, i would suggest a little elongation, but i DO find it acceptable.


but i am not a vaganova teacher, and my thinking may be 'wrong' in terms of vaganova - and i am very happy to be told so, by someone of vrsfanatic's knowledge...please feel free! ;)


but i hope that helps us all understand each other?

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It could be computed as well using "degrees of arc", but it still should be set on the dancer in the classroom. It's very difficult to set down in words in this format, but easy to do "up close and personal". After all, holding a six-foot balloon and holding an eight-foot balloon are rather different things. ;)

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Yes, grace, I did understand what Suzanne was trying to describe and your desciption with the sticks is priceless. It actually reminds me of many dancers I have seen which is precisely why I answered the question in the way I did. It is not at all Vaganova to even imagine it that way. The point of port de bras is negated, according to the program, if it is approached in that fashion. Also, 1st position is a smaller position and more rounded than 2nd. Plain and simple, therefore just opening from where the shoulder connects the arms (I am assumming you mean in the front of the body) into the chest and maintaining the form of the arm could not produce the correct shape. This would be too small of a curve/arch.


The port de bras for which the Vaganova Program is so revered, is known to move the arms physically from the upper back. The fingers initiate the movement as the arms are used in a free flowing, continuously breathing manner, never used as stick figures. This is a concept one needs to bite into, devour and enjoy. Without this...well, it just isn't Vaganova. It may be good, clear thinking but the art is missing and from even the very early stages, the art must remain in the training. :D

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