Photographed by Nathan Sayers, modeled by Marisa Trapani of Ballet Academy East.

The Perfect Exercise to Perk Up Your Port de Bras

This story originally appeared in the June/July 2015 issue of Pointe.

Just because the majority of ballet port de bras happens to the side or front of the body doesn't mean your back isn't working, too. In fact, a simple sweeping of the arms from en bas through second to fifth position utilizes a host of muscles throughout the upper back and shoulders, including the trapezius and deltoids. When these muscles aren't engaged, otherwise pristine port de bras can appear droopy and weak. Julie O'Connell, director of performing arts medicine at Athletico Physical Therapy in Chicago, recommends this exercise, called wall angels, to teach you to tap into proper muscular engagement. Try it before class, so you can easily recall the sensation throughout barre and center.


You'll need:

  • a clear space against a wall or on the floor
  • a set of 1- to 3-pound hand weights (optional)

Photographed by Nathan Sayers, modeled by Marisa Trapani of Ballet Academy East.

1. Start lying flat on your back or standing with your back against a wall.

2. Draw the shoulder blades together, keeping them in this position for the whole exercise. Place your arms against your sides with both elbows bent at a 90 degree angle.

Latest Posts


Vikki Sloviter

Sydney Dolan Takes Center Stage at Pennsylvania Ballet

This is Pointe's Summer 2020 cover story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

Just days before the world shuttered under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic, and the curtain came down indefinitely on dance companies everywhere, Pennsylvania Ballet soloist Sydney Dolan debuted Gamzatti in La Bayadère with captivating ease. Her jumps soared, her technique was sound, and her cheeky smile paired with exquisite port de bras was beguiling. Though she didn't know the company would soon cancel the remainder of its season, her beautiful performance acted as a kind of send-off into the unknown.

Dolan's career could be described in one word: charmed. At just 19 years old, she's flown through the ranks at PAB, debuted a long list of roles, won a Princess Grace Award and been named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch." Yet it's her challenges that have shaped not only her training but her outlook, giving her a solid foundation for becoming one of Pennsylvania Ballet's rising stars.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT

Defining and Refining Musicality: How to Tune In and Develop Your Artistic Voice

Ask a hundred people what musicality is, and you're likely to get a hundred different answers. "Musicality is where an artist's personality shines brightest," says Smuin Contemporary Ballet member Ben Needham-Wood. For American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt, "it's what distinguishes one dancer from another. It helps me express myself more vividly and emotionally."

Teachers encourage it, directors seek it out and dancers who possess it bring choreography to life in compelling ways. But what exactly is musicality, and how can dancers get more of it?

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Igor Burlak, Courtesy Boston Ballet

Get Ready for World Ballet School Day, Streaming July 7


Mark your calendars!

This Tuesday, July 7, join pre-professional dancers across the globe in an inaugural live-stream event celebrating World Ballet School Day 2020. Made "by students for students," the event aims to bring young generations of dancers together in an international recognition of the unifying power of ballet, dance and the art world at large. The program, featuring dancers from a dozen internationally renowned ballet academies and organizations, will be broadcasted online on the WBSD website at 7 am EDT and will be available for viewers on-demand for one month following the premiere.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks