Arabesque – Why is it called arabesque?

One of the best-known poses in ballet is called arabesque.

Do you know why it is called so?

Arabesque is the swirly pattern used in Islamic art and that is where the ballet arabesque comes from. The shape of a dancer’s body when he/she is performing arabesque (standing on one leg, extending the other leg behind, usually in the air) often contains more than one curly lines.

As you can see, Sir Anthony Dowell’s arabesque here shows a perfect arch from his left hand to his toes, but you can also see a slightly tighter arch from his head to toes.

How many curls can you see in this photo?

There are many types of arabesques but we will save that for another time.


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