2 3 Technical Tuesday Arabesque | Ballet Webb

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Technical Tuesday Arabesque

Technical Tuesday Arabesque

The word “arabesque” has several different meanings, including the one every dancer knows:  “a pose in ballet in which the dancer stands on one leg with one arm extended in front and the other leg and arm extended behind.”  But how did this position come to be called arabesque? If a dancer extends her leg devant, this position doesn’t have a name other than croisé or effacé devant . A leg extension derriere is also referred to as  croisé or efface derriere but most often is called arabesque. Why is there no corresponding “extra” name for an extension devant? And how and when did the term arabesque become used in ballet?

Other definitions include one in the fine arts area: “a sinuous, spiraling, undulating, or serpentine line or linear motif”; and one in the musical area: “a short, fanciful musical piece, typically for piano”. The origin of the word itself comes from the French, derived from the Italian arabesco in the early 1600s, which means an ornament in the Islamic style, literally Arabian;  and the ABT online dictionary (http://www.abt.org/education/dictionary/terms/arabesque.html ) and the Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet by Gail Grant state that arabesque takes its name from a form of Moorish ornament.

So. It appears that the position called arabesque was so beautiful and reminiscent of a lovely Moorish ornament that it earned its own specific name.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Ballet Secret #18s:  
“The word “arabesque” has several different meanings.”

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