There are six basic arms positions in ballet. These are simply called first, second, third, fourth, fifth and bras bas. Below I will explain in detail how each position should feel when you are dancing so that you can execute them correctly.
BRAS BAS: The term bras bas means low arm in French. Therefore the arms are down in front of the body making an oval shape. The arms should be slightly away from the body and not touching the tops of the thighs. A flat upper back should also be maintained ensuring that the shoulder blades are not jutting out. Finally, the arms should be held but there should be no tension in the hands or fingers.
FIRST POSITION: With this position there should be a slight bend in the arms and they are placed in front of the body. A good way to get the correct placement for this position is to imagine you you are hugging a big ball or tree. The elbows should be lifted and the arms held but there should be no tension in the hands. The palms of the hand can also be tilted upwards, this helps to engage the top of the arms and helps to hold the position. Extra care should also be taken not to hold the arms too high the finger tips should be inline with the belly button.
SECOND POSITION: In this position the arms are now out to the side of the body with the elbows lifted. It’s important to ensure that the elbows are not too bent or too straight and that the arms are making a semi circular shape out to the front. The shoulders should not be lifted in this position and instead should be back and down. Again the palms can be lifted slightly but there should be no tension in the hands. A good way to remember this position is to imagine a drop of water rolling down the arms off of the fingertips.
THIRD POSITION: This position consists of one hand in first position and the other hand in second (see notes on first and second position).
FOURTH POSITION: This position consists of one hand in second position and the other hand in fifth position (see notes on second and fifth position).
FIFTH POSITION: This position is very similar to bras bas but now the arms are making an oval shape above the head. There is a tendency to lift the shoulders in this position but they should be pulled down and the neck should be long and relaxed. Again it’s important not to over stretch the arms or bend the elbows too much. The arms should be held in front of the body and not behind, if the head is looking en face (to the front) you should be able to see the palms of the hands in your peripheral vision.
At Balletic we follow the bbodance ballet syllabus which in turn uses the ‘Gail Grant Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet‘ for all of it‘s terminology. Diagrams may be different to what you are used to based on the school of ballet that you follow.