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.
- 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.