The word arabesque has several different meanings, all of which describe this basic pose in classical ballet. Here are definitions of the word arabesque from the dictionary.
Arabesque – noun
1. Fine Arts . a sinuous, spiraling, undulating, or serpentine line or linear motif.
2. a pose in ballet in which the dancer stands on one leg with one or both arms extended in front and the other leg extended behind.
3.a short, fanciful musical piece, typically for piano.
4.any ornament or ornamental object, as a rug or mosaic, in which flowers, foliage, fruits, vases, animals, and figures are represented in a fancifully combined pattern.
The arabesque is one of the basic poses in classical ballet. It obtained its’ name from a Moorish ornament. As you can see form the definitions above, that the pose in ballet should be beautiful and extravagant.
We will be discussing definition number two. In ballet, the arabesque is normally done in profile to the audience, but not necessarily, and supported on one leg, which can be either straight or demi plie. The other leg is extended behind. The arms are held in various harmonious positions creating the longest possible line from the finger tip to the toes. The shoulders must be held square to the line of direction. The different forms of arabesque be varied to never ending. The Cecchetti method uses five principal arabesques, the Russian or Vaganova method uses four and the French method uses only two. See the Pages section for diagrams of Arabesques in the Ceccetti method
Arabesques are generally used to conclude a phrase of steps both in the slow movement of adagio and the brisk movements of allegro, and can be done many varied ways.
Arabesque a terre – Arabesque on the ground. The arms and body are in one of the arabesque positions but the leg that is extended in the fourth position back and is pointed on the floor.
Arabesque a la demi hauteur – The arabesque is at half height. In this arabesque the foot is raised to a position halfway between the position a terre and a horizontal position in the air. Approximately a 45 degree angle to the supporting leg.
Arabesque a la hauteur – The arabesque at the height. The working leg is raised at a right angle to the hip. This arabesque is also termed arabesque allongee.
Arabesque al lyre – Arabesque to the lyre. This arabesque position resembles third arabesque Cecchetti method, but both palms are held up and the elbows are slightly curved as if the dancer were holding a lyre.
Arabesque allongee a terre – Arabesque extended on the ground. In this arabesque the body is supported on one leg which is completely bent in plie while the other leg is extended in the back with the foot well turned out and pointed on the ground. The arms may be led any of the arabesque positions. The lunge position maybe taken in any direction, croisee (crossed), or ouvert (open) to the audience.
Arabesque croisee – Arabesque crossed. An arabesqaue is said to be croisee when the supporting leg is the leg nearer to the audience as in Cecchetti fourth or fifth arabesque.
Arabesque de face – Arabesque facing. An arabesque facing the audience.
Arabesque en promenade – Arabesque walking. An arabesque is said to be en promenade when a slow turn is made either en dedans or en dehors in an arabesque position.
Arabesque en tournant – Arabesque turning. An arabesque is said to be en tournant when a pivot is make on the supporting foot.
Arabesque fondue – Arabesque sinking down. An arabesque is said to be fondue when the knee of he supporting leg is bent.
Arabesque penchee – Arabesque leaning. An arabesque is which the body leans well forward, the forward arm and the head being low and the foot of the raised leg at the highest point trying to achieve a 180 degree line.
The arabesques listed above are by no means exhausted, they are just some familiar arabesques poses. As I stated before, the arabesque is varied and its’ limits are never ending. Be sure to view the chart on the Cecchetti Arabesques in the Pages section.