Basic Position of Arms & Legs in Dancing
As varied as the different forms of dance are, most of them have one element in common — the five positions. The five positions are based in ballet, but they correspond to common foot and arm positions encountered in many kinds of choreography. In fact, dance classes of all disciplines teach the five positions before moving on to more complicated steps. Learning the foot positions teaches you how to shift your weight in preparation for a change of direction or a jump, and the port de bras, or arm movements, are designed as a graceful way to maintain balance.
Stand with your heels together and toes pointed out. The turnout should come from your hips, not your knees or ankles. You should be able to maintain your turnout after lifting your foot off the floor. Your arms should be gently curved, with your hands in front of you, just below hip level. Maintain a straight posture — your shoulders should be over your hips, your back should be flat, and your ears should be over your shoulders. Keep your chin level, stomach firm, ribs lifted, shoulders down and neck long. Avoid a sway back or a tucked-under pelvis. Keep your posture straight as you move through the five positions.
From first position, point your right foot to the side, extending your leg and keeping your toe on the floor, then lower your heel to the floor. At the same time, lift your arms in front of you in first position, stopping just below shoulder level and unfolding from the elbow. Your weight should be evenly distributed between your two legs, your feet should be about 12 inches apart, and your arms should be open wide with your elbows pointing back. Do not entirely lose the curve in your arms.
From second position, shift your weight to your left foot and slide your right foot back toward your left, until the heel of your right foot touches the arch of your left foot. At the same time, bring your right arm in front of you, just below chest level. Maintain the curve of the arm as in first position. Your left arm remains in second. Keeping your shoulders down and back will place your arm at the correct distance from your body — imagine you are holding a beach ball.
From third position, slide your right foot out in front of you in a straight line from the arch of your left foot. You are at the correct distance when you can keep a pointed toe on the floor with your leg straight — usually about 12 inches. At the same time, unfold your right arm back into second position and raise your left arm in front of you, then above your head. Initiate the movement with your back muscles and maintain the curvature of the arms. Unlike the other, positions, fourth does not allow equal weight distribution. Your left foot is considered your supporting leg and should bear the brunt of your weight. Your right leg is your working leg and should bear only about 20 percent of your weight.
From fourth position, bring your right foot back toward your left, maintaining your turnout, until the heel of your right foot touches the toe of your left foot. At the same time, raise both arms above your head, maintaining a gentle curve. Fifth position can be difficult to balance at first — lock your eyes onto an eye-level spot on the wall across from you as you adjust your weight distribution. Do not force a full fifth position. If putting your heel to your toe forces your backside to stick out, back off a little. Posture is of the utmost importance. Return to first position and repeat the entire sequence with your left foot as the working foot.
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