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'Horizontal' arabesques


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I love the look of arabesques, and I've been working on mine a lot lately. One of my teachers is trying to get me to shift my weight more forward than what I'm used to. I agree with her that on me, this line looks better, my alignment is better in it, and I'm more secure in it.


She talks about this as rediscovering the horizontal lines of an arabesque. Now we see lots of dancers who seem fairly vertical with their leg sticking out straight behind them. I guess that's always what I envisaged/worked on.


However, while I was in the U.S., all of the teachers I had wanted the line to be more vertical, with only very minimal shifts of weight forward.


I remember reading on here (I think) about this difference between a vertical and horizontal arabesque (for lack of better terms), but I'm curious as to where the different styles originated/were predominant. These days, in almost all of the ballet I see, I see very 'vertical' arabesques - with the one exception of some of the Danish dancers?


Also, what do the teachers here prefer? Why?


Thanks for dealing with my curiousity!

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Guest adancingartistforlife

I think the "horizontal arabesque" probably grew out of the Balanchine style, with it's angularity. Not sure


I think its more important for women, especailly when you have on a tutu. Not so much for men. (Don't wear tutus :rolleyes: )


Checcetti doesn't concentrate so much on the angle of the leg. More on the complete line of the entire body. The total shape


Remember when you take your weight forward, lift out of the lower back, don't collapse in the lumbar area.

Edited by adancingartistforlife
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Actually, the "horizontal" (more allongé) arabesque is an older look than the Balanchine arabesque line, which has OTHER characteristics to it. It's the arabesque of the Romantic period, the time of Giselle and "Pas de Quatre".

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I do Cecchetti & we are always being corrected by being told to "keep the body upright" when we do arabesques & not to lean forward.



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There is no "lean" forward in an arabesque unless one is doing, as Mr. Johnson said, a Romantic era work. However, one DOES need to move the body weight forward. You cannot remain in the same alignment for an arabesque as you do for a front or side extension. The key is to move it forward and UPWARD. It is not horizontal. Nor can the hips remain perfectly square if you expect to have the back leg rotated. A hundred years ago, and more, the arabesque had quite a different look than it does today. Turned in legs are no longer acceptable :rolleyes:

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Guest adancingartistforlife

NOW I get what you were talking about with "horizontal arabesque". I was thinking you meant working the leg to get it parallel to the floor.


Yes, the forward lean does go with the Romantic School...I can see Marie Taglioni doing it now. (Not that I have ever seen marie Taglioni do it, other than in pictures :rolleyes: )


Regarding placement of the hips. I've found that to be a tricky subject to relate to students properly.


You definitely don't want to pull back in the hips when the leg goes up in back...that goes without saying. You also don't want to collapse in the lower back when you go forwrd. Like Ms Leigh said.


I have heard and said:


"Weight forward from the ankle", and "Hips forward, keeping the body on top"

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I most definitely do not mean a lean forward. I mean a line which is not a right angle from the back and extended leg, but more of an elongated curve. The Romantic era arabesque, as I see it, would stylistically be an extreme of this, I think.


I guess, more specifically, I mean the degree to which the weight shifts forward and how. If one was to look at a vertical plane, I've seen some arabesques in which the torso and working leg seem to stay along that plane, with the extended leg in back kinda like this




Of course there has to be a weight shift, but in this case it's a relatively minor one. So if my torso, with the weight shift was to move more forward... The upper back stays upright, it does not lean forward, but the line is relatively more horizontal (or rather, maybe takes up more horizontal space), than one in which the verticality is upheld.


Argh... is this making sense at all? Maybe I should find some pictures. Or have pictures taken of me showing what I mean.... (actually, no! Don't want to hurt your eyes....and I hate being photographed....)

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Guest adancingartistforlife

I see what you mean, and I like your icon...very creative.

Like a capital "Y", onlyt the part of the "Y" that is the working leg is parallel to the floor, and there is a head with an uplifted chin atop the other.

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The line of an arabesque is actually a spiral, like the interior of a chambered nautilus shell. The tightest curl of the arabesque is the head, and the spiral emanates from it.

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I don't think I've articulated myself in this clearly at all, and I am unsure at the moment how to do so.... I most definitely do not mean a Romantic-era arabesque. I will maybe have to come back to this when I figure out a way to express this.

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In the Romantic Era, the arabesque spiral was somewhat more relaxed. Ms. Leigh and I both say that the torso is still held up in modern arabesques, but that there is a DIAGONAL pull-forward-and-up. The nice picture (That's Hans by the way) shows a nice arabesque line (except for the flippy hand :D ) from the Petipa/Imperial era.

There is a picture somewhere of Pavlova and Cecchetti showing the allongé line that was good for, say, 1910.

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  Ms. Leigh and I both say that the torso is still held up in modern arabesques, but that there is a DIAGONAL pull-forward-and-up. 


Okay, this is a different way to put it - and I agree with the Diagonal pull forward and up - but I've seen many arabesques where it seems to be more of a pull up than a diagonal impetus. I think internally the feeling must still be somewhat on the diagonal, but if you look at the body, they are less forward. It's not a huge, drastic difference, and I've seen both by professionals. Again, while in the U.S., some of the teachers seemed to be going more for this pull-up impetus, limiting the diagonal a bit... Does that make more sense?

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Guest BalletBrat

Zakharova's extension


I think that what you are referring to has to be directly related to how high the leg is taken. When the leg is above 90 there is a significant change in the position of the torso in relation to the hips and will be more "forward" creating more of a curved line from head to toe. When the leg is at 90, the look of the arabesque is more angular and depending on the strength and flexibilty of the dancer will show little adjustment of the torso. It is the very strong, very flexible dancer that can take the leg above 90 without much displacement of the torso and is a very bravura kind of movement.


Thinking on it more.....what you are talking about is arabesque allongé, where the entire line of the body is more parallel to the floor rather than perpendicular. So as the toe of the extended leg and the hand of the arabesque arm are in line with eachother.


In regards to which one is preferred, I think both are important and should be studied, for obvious reasons, but one does not negate the other. It depends on the movement for -which- arabesque is used, and an arabesque allongé can be a nice ending to a beautifully help up high extension. I would not forsake the training of a higher extension for arabesque allongé only. One must also be careful with this particualr arabesque because it can be too easy to make it look bad, as though the dancer does not have the strength to hold the back erect.




Sorry if I repeated anything already said...I'm rambling again.

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