Ballet etymology: Arabesque

By admin

April 27, 2021

Learning the etymology of ballet words can help you visualize the intention of the position or exercise. It also makes for great trivia for your next class! Let’s dissect the word Arabesque [air-uh-besk].

IMG_4935What it looks like in ballet: A classical position in which the dancer is balanced on one supporting leg with the working leg lifted behind them. 

Etymology: According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word arabesque originated in 1610 and takes its name from a form of Moorish ornament. From there, the word became the French arabesque, then into Italian arabesco, both referring to an Arabic decoration or design. It wasn’t used as a ballet term until 1830. In 1853, the Robert Schumman, a German composer, titled a song “Arabeske” for its meaning of elaborate decoration.  

How to use it in barre: Arabesque battements using the barre (see Chapter 8 of the IBBFA Barre Certification Level 1 manual).

Other meanings of the word today: According to, the word defines a short, elaborate music piece for piano, a spiraling literary motif, and any ornament (rug, mosaic, etc.) with fanciful patterns of flowers, fruits, animals, and figures.

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