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Arms in a la seconde


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When the arms are in a la seconde, is the upper arm supposed to be straight side, or a little bit in front? I thought the upper arm is supposd to be straight side, with the lower arm curved forward, so when the arms go en haut, there's no adjustment (I'm taught en haut is right beside the ear--the elbows are very open). My friend and I were debating this. She thinks the upper arm should be a bit forward. Is there a right way, or does it depend on the body?


All I know is they shouldn't be BACK..which is what I tend to do :o

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  • Dance_Scholar_London


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Actually, the arms, all of them :) , ARE slightly, very slightly forward of absolute side. There is a gentle curve from the shoulder to the upper arm and then to the lower arm, creating a very slight semi circle. It's not really a true semi circle, but it's definitely NOT a straight line! If the upper arm is right at shoulder level, it's very hard to keep the shoulder down. The upper arm is very slightly lower than the shoulder, VERY slightly please, then the elbow is slightly higher than the lower arm, and the wrist slightly higher than the hand. But these are very tiny differences I'm talking about here.

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I'm contrasting, in my statement, the arms in most of ballet with the older French, then Danish school, where the arms were VERY definitely forward of directly side in second position. All the lines were softer then.

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Right, but that is not what I was referring to. When the arms are absolutely side, with the upper arm the same height as the shoulder, I find no way at all to make the back muscles work. What I meant is that they are really VERY slightly forward, and VERY gently curved, with a VERY slight downward slope. Not to the point of the Romantic Period at all.

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Oh, yes. If you were to take a straight axis to the side from the point of the shoulder to the point of the elbow, that axis would be still inside the arm, but at the elbow it would shoot out into empty air.

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Several teachers told me that I still should be able to see my hands in second when I look straight forward. If I still can see them without moving my eyes they are not too far back. Do you agree, Mel, Victoria?

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That's correct, but remember that the field of peripheral vision is surprisingly wide. And the hands are at the very ends of the arc formed by the arms in second.

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That's correct, but remember that the field of peripheral vision is surprisingly wide.  And the hands are at the very ends of the arc formed by the arms in second.


Wow, this is very interesting. That's a bit different than the instruction from my Vaganova teacher. She instructed me specifically to have my arms forward of the body line, and the elbow is definitely in line with or slightly in front of the chest /breast line. I have a bit of an excess (well, quite a bit :D ) in that department and perhaps that is why she instructed me in that way, to help me keep my weight forward?


I can most certainly see not only my hands, but also just barely my elbows in the peripheral.

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I have long limbs as well and I tend not to make fully use of my arm lengths. This becomes more obvious when I am getting tired but it is not too hard to fix it :-)

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I too have the same problem- I have nice long and slender arms but when I get tired I sometimes do not pay enough attention to how I am holding them and they are hanging down like a pair of broken wings :):bash::blush::helpsmilie:

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I agree with Ms Leigh. It's of course quite an individual thing as nobody has the same two pairs of arms, but the elbow would need to be (on a vertical plan) in line with about the nose (depends how long it is!) :bash:


For arms in 5th (en haut), you would need to have them a bit forward too, so I don't think you can say the elbows are next to the ears on a vertical plan. I would think rounded more towards the front, again, so that the back can be used fully.


With arms in fifth (en haut), you would only need to slightly lift your gaze to see the hands, not crook your neck.

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That is correct, balletowoman. If the arms are literally beside the ears in 5th en haut, you would not be able to see them by lifting the gaze, and also the head would be slightly forward of the arms, which should not happen! The head must remain very slightly behind the arms. Acutally, that would apply to à la seconde as well. :bash:

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What about to the front. Is it more round, or more oval? My RAD teacher corrected me and wants an oval shape in 1st position. Is this RAD specific or does this apply to other styles as well. I havent had this correction in other class, maybe because it is a style detail...

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Guest BalletBrat

My "Old School" RAD teacher says the arms should be oval, as well, the fingers should be seen in the peripheral vision in second, as if a drop of water could roll gently down the arm from the shoulder to the fingertip. In fifth, the fingers should just be seen without having to shift the gaze .. However, my "New School" RAD teacher asks for the arms to be more rounded, and the fingers in 5th should be seen when the eyes are lifted slightly.


This difference has caused quite a commotion with my old teacher, as she is adament that the rib cage opens and the upper body pulls back when the arms are too far back in second and fifth. I have to agree with her, as I have seen it happen with my students, fellow dancers and even myself.


In my own observations, as I am still a student in many ways myself, I have noticed the "Russian Style" arms are typically held farther back and with a less gentle curvature of line, and Balanchine style arms in particular, are even more angular and strangely placed. I am not a fan of this look personally, but we all have our favorites. :bash: So clearly, I think it (position of the arms) is a matter of style, is that safe to assume??

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