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Ballet Basics: Port de Bras for Beautiful Arms in the Air

Updated: Mar 20, 2021

This week's technique tip is brought to you by pro dancer, aerialist and Aerial Physique Master Trainer Christine Wunderlich.

Ballet Basics: Port de Bras for Beautiful Arms in the Air Ballet revolves around long lines of legs, arms & body to create the illusion of superhuman beauty & grace. Ballet Dancers are described in many ways like swimming Swans, calm and graceful on the top, while the legs do all the work underneath! A masterful illusion, but those wings still need to be strong to fly! Port de Bra” is the ballet term meaning “Movement of the Arms”. Remember, it’s not what you do, but how you do it. Be mindful of the intention of your movements and nd most important - feel beautiful and enjoy!

P.S. The 'characters' Christine portrays in the video can all serve a purpose when it comes to choreography & style choices, this tip is geared towards the ‘classical’ approach.

Exercise 1: Hand, Wrist & Forearm Warm-ups For many aerialists, the hands, wrists and forearms hold a great deal of tension. Relax them and get them moving with these simple drills: Finger Waves: Ripple your hands from a flat palm to a loose fist, one finger after another, starting with the little finger. Articulate each finger joint. X5 each hand

Repeat in Reverse (starting with the thumb) Forearm Twists with Compression: Holding your arm firmly below the elbow, lightly squeeze. Rotate the wrist and hand like you were screwing in a light bulb. It should feel like a mini massage. Great for after a long aerial session or a long day at the home office computer!

Exercise 2: Port de Bra – 1st and 2nd Position Start arms start down in a rounded preparatory position called Bras bas. Lift the rounded arms so they are in line with your diaphragm; 1st Position. Next, open the rounded arms, “a la Seconde” to 2nd Position. Elbows stay lifted, and arms should have a gentle slope to the fingers. Finally rotate the palm of the hand downwards in an “Allongé” or elongated line and then float your arms back to Bras bas. Think of the movement coming from your shoulder blade mobilization, not the tops of your shoulder (upper trapezius).

Extra Challenge: Add a Plié & Stretch to make a full-body movement.

Exercise 3: Full Port De Bra – 1st to 5th Position Start arms start down in a rounded preparatory position called Bras bas. Lift the rounded arms to 1st Position. Now continue lifting until arms are above the front of your forehead to 5th Position. Arms should remain rounded, elbows sideways, shoulders and shoulder blades in a neutral position. Rotate the forearms to extend the arms “Allongé” into V Position and then float your arms back to Bras bas.

Extra Challenge: Add a Plié & Relevé to challenge full-body coordination.

Exercise 4: 5 Basic Positions – A Game of Coordination In Ballet there are 5 basic positions (sometimes given different names by different institutions)

You now know 1st, 2nd, and 5th. Let’s add the others.

  • Arms Bras bas to 1st Position

  • Arms 1st to 2nd Position

  • New: Close one arm back to 1st Position & leave the other in 2nd Position = 3rd Position

  • New: Arm in 1st goes above head to 5th & the arm in 2nd Position changes to 1st = 4th Position

  • Arms to 5th

  • Close to Bras bas through Allongé V

Try also the opposite side. Challenge yourself to find flow & move quicker through the coordination.

Exercise 5: 1st Arabesque Arabesque is a position where a dancer stands on one leg and extends the other leg straight behind with elongated arms extending in the opposite direction.1st Arabesque is with the forward extended arm the same as the standing leg and the other arm sideways or diagonal backward. Sounds Complicated? First, just the basic Port de Bra!

Arms travel from 1st to 3rd Position. Allongé arms to 1st Position Arabesque. The chest lifts and shoulders remain neutral and relaxed. Look past the fingers on the diagonal. Float the arms closed to Bras bas.

Try with the leg extending backward. Move through the 3rd position (don’t stop) to Arabesque to give it more flow. This will give the body the illusion of length using long lines from the fingers to toes. Keep fingers light and relaxed to avoid “paddle” hands. This same 1st Arabesque position looks great in your split in the air, or inverted positions.

CONGRATULATIONS!! Port de Bras for Beautiful Arms in the Air completed!!

Ballet is a beautiful & a great way to learn elegant arm coordination & lengthen your lines. Love your Port de Bra & let your aerial movement soar gracefully! P.S. If this tip inspired you to focus more on your artistry Christine offers virtual one-on-one coaching exactly for that. Her students @theloftylife, @romydrouby have recently created aerial acts and have made incredible improvements in their training with her guidance! Click here to check out her Aerial Edge program!


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