My dance teacher always tells me to connect my arms to my back. What does this mean, and how can I do it? —Sherry
It took me a long time to figure this out, too. The key is to not think of the arm as a separate appendage starting at the top of the shoulder—otherwise your port de bras will look flimsy and two-dimensional. Instead, imagine that your arms originate at the bra line, right under your scapulas. To get a better feel for what muscles need to be engaged, roll your shoulders back, stopping at the bottom of the roll. You should feel your shoulder blades pressing down and your upper back and core muscles working. From there, place your fingers on your shoulders (keeping the ribs together) and feel the elbows reaching out long. Make sure there’s space between your shoulder blades—you don’t want to pinch them together. Now, lower the hands to second position. You should feel support running all through the upper back and arm.
To give you a visual of how port de bras connects to the back during movement, click here to see the great Russian ballerina Natalia Makarova in “The Dying Swan." Notice that she’s not merely flapping her arms up and down, but that her movement originates organically from her core.