Despite starting ballet as a toddler, training at the schools of both Boston Ballet and National Ballet of Canada and ultimately dancing with such companies as Dance Theatre of Harlem and Ballet NY, Melissa Morrissey says that she still works hard to improve one of ballet’s most quintessential poses: first arabesque. Surprised that a pro with 11 years of experience struggles with such a basic position? Don’t be. Serious dancers are always striving for higher, more square first arabesques. “It’s the most telling of all the classical arabesques,” says the School of Oregon Ballet Theater’s Director Damara Bennett. “Anybody who wants to see what a dancer looks like asks for a picture in first arabesque. It’s used everywhere.”
5 Tips for a Refined Arabesque
- To increase the height of the working leg, open the hip without lifting it, making sure rotation increases as the leg ascends higher.
- The back should be positioned correctly to achieve adequate height. Instead of the strongly arched Vaganova back or the rigidly vertical back espoused by the Cecchetti school, Bennett prefers moving the torso forward to facilitate the leg’s ascent. The chest should be over the toes of the standing foot. A 90-degree back-to-leg angle is the aim.
- To understand the proper positioning of the back: Face the barre in first position. Holding on with both hands, tendu derrire with the right foot. Then, cambré back, feeling the arch in the center of the back. Without standing upright, lift the foot in tendu off the floor as high as you can without moving your back. Then, keeping the same back-to-leg angle, bring your back up to a vertical position, imagining that the big toe is lifting your back. Repeat on the other side.
- Keeping the arabesque square means neither tipping toward the standing leg nor lifting the working hip. For a symmetrical arabesque and a traditional line, square the rib cage by making the right side of the torso even with the left side of the torso (when you’re standing on your left leg), so that you feel the stretch in the middle of your back.
- Lift the chin and look over the fingers of the lifted arms, which are in line with the center of the body.
Facing away from the barre on a diagonal, Melissa Morrissey holds on with her right hand to “keep the chest up and everything square and lifted.” She places the left leg on the barre, which helps increase flexibility in her back. By continuing to pull up over the supporting leg, she stays lifted and avoids letting her torso fall forward. Then, she lifts the leg as high off the barre as possible, holds for five seconds, and lowers the leg to the barre. She does 5-10 repetitions before reversing.
Susan Chitwood, a former apprentice with Virginia Ballet Theater, has an MS in journalism from Columbia University.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.
The coolest place she's ever performed:
I'd have to say the Super Bowl. The field was so cool, and Katy Perry was right there. And there were so many eyes—definitely the most eyes I've ever performed for!
Something she's constantly working on:
My feet. I'm flat-footed, so I'm always hearing, 'Point your toes!' And I'm like, 'I am!'
My hair! That, and a pair of leggings with a T-shirt or tank top.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
For a long time, I was the strongest dancer at my studio. But this year there's a new girl in my class who's very talented, and my teacher's attention has definitely shifted to her. I'm trying not to feel jealous or discouraged, but it seems like my whole dance world has changed. Help!
In the dance world, Mandy Moore has long been a go-to name, but in 2017, the success of her choreography for La La Land made the rest of the world stop and take notice. After whirlwind seasons as choreographer and producer on both "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance," she capped off the year with two Emmy Award nominations—and her first win. Dance Magazine caught up with her to find out how she's balancing all of her dance projects.