Port de Bras
Port de bras: a classical ballet term meaning “movement of the arms.”
It describes how dancers move their arms from one position to another. For example, if a ballerina moves her arms from first position to fifth position, it is considered a port de bras.
Carriage of the arms. The term, port de bras, has two meanings:
1. A movement or series of movements made by passing the arm or arms through various positions. The passage of the arms from one position to another constitutes a port de bras.
2. A term for a group of exercises designed to make the arms move gracefully and harmoniously. In the Cecchetti method, there are eight set exercises on port de bras.
In the execution of port de bras, the arms should move from the shoulder – not from the elbow – and the movement should be smooth and flowing. The arms should be softly rounded, so the elbows’ points are imperceptible, and the hands must be simple, graceful, and never flowery. The body and head should come into play, and a suggestion of épaulement should be used. In raising the arms from one position to another, the arms must pass through a position known in dancing as the gateway. This position corresponds to the fifth position en avant, Cecchetti method, or the first position, French and Russian Schools. In passing from a high position to a low one, the arms are generally lowered in line with the sides. Exercises on port de bras can be varied to infinity by combining their basic elements according to the professor’s taste and the needs of the pupil.
When doing proper port de bras, dancers will move their arms from their back and shoulders (without lifting the shoulders awkwardly upwards) while trying to move as smoothly as possible. The shape of the arms should be rounded, so there is no visible break at the elbows and wrists. In classical ballet, the arms should never be entirelystraight or hyper-extended at the elbows. Hands should be shaped with the fingers extended, running mostly in the same direction, but not stuck together like a paddle or overly extended.
In contemporary ballet, there are many exceptions to the rules of port de bras; however, port de bras should always look coordinated with the lower half of the body and still balletic in nature (meaning, not raising the shoulders awkwardly or having excess tension in the arms) unless explicitly instructed to look different or to make a specificshape requested by the choreographer.
While the term does specify a movement of the arms, port de bras also includes the head’s position and movement in relation to the arms. The movement of both the arms and head is considered a package deal for almost every ballet step.
Port de bras is harder than it looks on paper. Mastering port de bras takes several years of practice for all dancers, with some professionals still practicing to achieve beautiful movement in their arms.
Port de Bras, Grande
In class, teachers sometimes use the ballet term port de bras to instruct students to do a specific stretch at barre. For example, a teacher may say “… and port de bras forward and back” after a tendu combination at barre. The students would then place their arms, likely in a high fifth, and bend at the hips, stretching forward over their legs to the front, then returning to an upright position before arching backward.
Large port de bras is a circular movement of the arms combined with cambré. There are several varieties of grand port de bras, of which the following is an example: Stand on the R foot in attitude croisée à terre. Lower the L toe to demi-pointe and demi- plié on both legs, bending the body and head forward. The rounded L arm almost touches the floor, and the R arm is carried downward to meet the L arm. Lower the L heel to the floor, transfer the weight to the L foot, and then rise upward with a circular motion to the left. The torso, head, and arms swing to the left, the body bends back, the R arm is raised above the head, and the L arm extended to the side, R foot pointed forward. The body is then straightened, and the circular movement is completed by moving the R arm to the second position and the L arm above the head – head and torso inclined to the right. The dancer then does a demi-plié in the fourth position, lowering the arms to the fifth position en bas. The knees are then straightened, and the dancer stands on the R foot in attitude croisée à terre.
- Movement Explanations:
- Start with hands in brava.
- Move your arms to First position.
- Move your arms to Second position.
- Back to brava.
- Grand port de bras:
- Move your hands to First position.
- Move your hands to Fifth position.
- Move your hands to Second position.
- Back to brava.
- Movement Techniques:
- Arms rounded and controlled.
- Shoulders remain down.
- Back upright.
- Core engaged.
- Elbows are lifted.
- Delicate palms.
- Glide arms to each position smoothly.