Correct body placement for arabesques and attitudes is essential. Be sure to keep your body balanced and upright, except when choreography calls for attitudes to lean slightly back, away from the front attitude or forward, slightly away from the back attitude. In an arabesque, your body should lean slightly forwards. Throw out your chest but be sure that you keep your abdominals tight and in.
Two faults common to dancers are throwing out your abdominals at the same time as you throw out your chest or throwing out your “derriere” when you are required to keep in your abdominals. Keep your shoulders down, well opened and forced back. Your head should be slightly raised. Don’t forget your face. Your face should be animated and expressive. Your head and shoulders should be “framed” by your arm that is raised or en haut.
There are an infinite number of attitudes. How they are used depends on the choreographer. Croisee, de face, efface, ect. The attitude is derived from the statue of Mercury by Jean Bologne (1524-1608) The dancer and teacher Carlo Blasis (1797 – 1878) admired the statue and when he viewed it, he took the role of Mercury in his ballet The Festival of Bacchus. In the ballet he introduced a pirouette which used an attitude. In dancing today, this pirouette is known as pirouette en attitude.
In general an attitude is a pose in which the body is supported on one leg the foot being placed a terre, demi pointe or en pointe, while the other is raised with the knee bent and turned out. One arm is in the fourth position en haut and the other in the demi second position. At any rate the raise knee should always be higher than the foot. Attitudes are also done wit the working leg a terre. Balanchine’s famous “B+” position is actually an attitude a terre derriere.
Arabesques are poses which were originally inspired by antique paintings and sculptures. The name arabesque applies to the flowing ornaments of the Moors, a nomadic Arab tribe dating back to the 8th century. An arabesque is made by supporting the body on one leg which can be straight or demi plie, while the one the other is extended straight back either a terre or en l’air. The arms are what decides as to which arabesque it is, excepting in 4th or 5th arabesque. See the diagram page on this blog. Cecchetti method has five different arabesques.
The essence of a good arabesque is the correct distribution of your weight which should be neither too far forwards or too far backwards. An easy way to determine whether the body is correctly placed, is to pass the raised foot forwards and step and on it. If the weight is correctly placed, the body will remain balanced. If your back is too arched or your chest thrown too far forwards, your body will fall backwards or forwards. Remember that your shoulders need to be held square to the direction you are facing and that your fingers of the hand, extended front, must always be in a line with the center of the space between your eyes.
It is so oblivious that arabesques and attitudes are capable of so much variety. The slightest change of either foot or either arm will produce a new pose!