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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Lifting arms


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Greetings all,


I am finding that I have a lot of trouble keeping my arms lifted in second position without getting extremely tired in the shoulders. My instructors keep telling me to engage the muscles under the arm. They try to explain it to me but I still feel like my shoulders are doing all the work in extending my arms. I've had it explained to me in ways that I thought I understood, but my instructors are still telling me that I'm just not engaging them. So I think it's a problem of just not using them ever so I have no idea what to use!


Does anyone know how I can actually locate the muscles that I am supposed to engage to support my arms so that my shoulders?

Some sort of movement or exercise?


I couldn't find this in a search for some reason, so I apologize as I am almost guaranteed that this is SOMEWHERE on this board!


Thank you :)



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Guest Pas de Quoi

The muscles needed to make the shape one desires are located under the arms and in the chest - the brachialis and the pectoralis major and minor and also quite importantly, in the mid-back around the area of the shoulder blades. If these are not working, then indeed the shoulders will have to take over. I suggest you make a first position (5th en avant in some systems of training) and try to imagine the under part of the arms supporting this shape and the shape also coming from the mid-back area. It is not easy, I know. You may try imagining hugging something very large and very round. You may also try making the shape at a level that is a little higher than waist height and feeling the desired muscle activation there, and then see if you can keep that feeling as you raise the arms to a true fifth en avant. Once you can do that, you may try to keep that feeling as you "expand" the arms to second position.


Arms are hard - no doubt about it. - and they take a lot of time in front of the mirror determining what works for you. Here is a link to another Insight Ballet Glossary video that shows alignments but also shows the action of the arms in achieving classical positions. I hope this helps a bit. I always give my young dancers a center floor port de bras exercise, and it is helpful, as much practice is needed to achieve the ideal line we all strive for. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQl78gCPHxs&list=RD1fSa3ESmA1s

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Try this: when facing the barre, open your arms in second position, rest the sides of your hands on the barre. Press down on the barre, you will feel the muscles engage. Now, step away from the barre, place your arms in second position and press down on a imaginary barre. Has always worked for me, and my students.

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Great suggestions! I just want to add one more. You could also try placing your fingertips on your shoulders with your elbows extended straight out to the side from your shoulders. Make sure you are not lifting your shoulders. Then extend your forearms to 2nd.

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Another suggestion. it has helped me locate the muscles for my second position.



Have your arms in first position. Flip your wrists back and you would feel the back engaged. Then just extend your arms out to second :)

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Thank you for the suggestions. Pressing down on the barre knocked the memory back into my head of which muscles I need to use to avoid putting it all on my shoulders. It is a little bit strange feeling for those muscles (engaging them almost feels like stretching??), but my arms aren't falling or getting tired as quickly. :)

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I am glad it helped. I actually learned that in a jazz class. Luigi, who had been ballet trained, was paralyzed in a car crash. He developed his exercises to recover from his paralysis...much of the rehabilitation he created for himself was based on the ideal of pressing down on an imaginary barre. I have used that image in ballet and modern...it gives strength and line to the port de bras as well has help you engage the right muscles.

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