Ballet Foundations: Positions of the Arms in Ballet

Ballet’s major training systems all use Beauchamps’s original five positions of the feet and, for the most part, the same French terminology. On the most fundamental aspects of technique there is no disagreement. However, the schools do diverge on, among other things, which arm positions are codified and how they are identified. In some cases there are variants along with “official” positions. Sometimes two or even more terms exist for the same position.


Some specifics for class:

  • Hands and Wrists: Hands and wrists should be relaxed and natural, flowing along with the arm, with space between the fingers.
  • Head and Gaze: Head and gaze should be coordinated with the port de bras. It makes all the difference between confident, expressive dancing and dancing that looks clueless or robotic.
  • Shapes and Distance: The oval shape the arms make when they are both over head is exactly the same shape they make when in front of the body and when lowered in bras bas. Men maintain slightly more distance between the fingertips (about the width of the face), than do women (about the width of two fingertips).




Arm Positions


  • First Position: arms held out in front of the body with rounded elbows in an oval shape, sloping down from the shoulders


  • Second Position: arms held out to the sides, horizontal with a slight slope downwards from shoulders to wrist.


  • Third Position: one arm held forward in first position, the other arm held to the side in second position


  • Fourth Position: one arm held to the side in second position, the other arm raised up above the head, held slightly forward


  • Fifth Position: both arms raised up above the head, held slightly forward