What Is the Movement of the Arms in Ballet?


The movement of arms in ballet is a fundamental component of every dancer’s technique. Not only does it help create the beautiful line and shapes of the body, but it also helps to express emotion and story-telling. Through the use of arm movements, a dancer can bring life to a choreography and captivate an audience.

When learning ballet, the arms are often one of the first elements taught due to their importance in both technique and performance. The basic technique for arms includes port de bras, which translates from French to “carriage of the arms”.

Through port de bras, dancers learn how to transfer weight, balance their body, and articulate their lines in space. All arm movements need to come from the center of the body as opposed to using just one arm at a time as this would throw off balance.

Arm movements can be divided into two categories: open arm positions and closed arm positions. Open arm positions include first position (arms stretched outwards with palms facing down) and fifth position (one arm stretched out while the other is bent at the elbow with hands facing up). Closed arm positions typically include second (right hand resting next to left shoulder) or third (hands clasped together above head).

The Arms in Performance:

In addition to mastering technique, understanding how arms are used in performance is key for any dancer. The arms can be used to convey a range of emotions through various types of movement such as gesturing or swaying with grace. Arms also help create dynamic shapes on stage when combined with other parts of the body such as legs or torso.

The use of arms in performance also allows a dancer to create different visuals for an audience by changing speed, direction, or size. For example, if a dancer wants to portray strength they may move their arms quickly with great force whereas if they want to portray calmness they could move them gently and slowly.


The movement of arms in ballet is an essential part of any dancer’s technique and performance ability. By mastering open and closed arm positions along with understanding how they are used for expression on stage, dancers can bring life and excitement into any choreography.