Joyful movement in general, and ballet in particular, is one of the great passions of my life. I find the movements of the arms particularly captivating, and in recent times it has become more relevant than ever that they are accessible with little available space.
As I age, I also appreciate how I can continue to refine elements of my technique and artistry, such as balance and port de bras, while athletic high-impact jumps and such become less of a focus.
In addition to ballet, there are many influences on my dance technique and upper-body movement, including experiences in Hula, Modern Dance, Jazz Dance, Okinawan dance, Hip Hop, and other modalities and improvisational experiences. It is a blast to play with arm movements from classical and contemporary dance forms as well as innovate our own upper-body stylings!
Arm Artistry in Ballet
It can definitely be helpful to practice the basic arm movements of ballet through learning set sequences or syllabi of exercises over time. In my own training, I learned the Cecchetti ballet technique port de bras series as a child, then experienced an array of schools and techniques as I studied with diverse artists and matured as a dancer.
Then it can deepen our practice to experiment with our own original improvisation and choreography, using music and movement in creative ways. My Arm Artistry Playlist on YouTube includes some set port de bras sequences and some more creative and improvisational upper-body fun:
All of the port de bras videos I share can be adapted to your available space, range of upper-body motion, and an assortment of seated, standing, or reclining positions.
Recently I’ve experimented with port de bras inspired by nature, and came up with a series of videos about flowers, snowflakes, pinecones, and raindrops which I am sharing below.
Flower Fantasy Port de Bras
The “Flower Fantasy Creative Ballet Port de Bras” video features a combination of improvisational upper body movement and a simple arm choreography to “Waltz of the Flowers” music by Tchaikovsky from “The Nutcracker” ballet.
Imagine a time-lapse video of a flower blooming, petals emerging, a sunflower following the Sun’s rays. These movements can be performed seated or standing, you can follow along with me, or you can devise your own original floral-inspired movements.
Snowflake Port de Bras
In the “Snowflake Creative Ballet Port de Bras,” the upper body movements are inspired by another track from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” the iconic “Waltz of the Snowflakes.”
Emphasizing angular and geometric shapes, you can follow along with my loose sequence (I play with the timing a bit as the music changes), improvise freely, or do some combination of both!
Pinecone Port de Bras
Emphasizing sharp and angular yet woodsy pinecone-like shapes, the “Pinecone Creative Ballet Port de Bras” is inspired by the movements of the dolls in “The Nutcracker” and “Coppelia” ballets and this music, Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 in G Major, Prelude (love how woody/pinecone-y the cello sounds!).
I improvise freely through different classical ballet arm positions perform the sequence while seated on the floor, but could also be practiced sitting in a chair, standing, or even lying down.
Raindrop Port de Bras
Emphasizing splashy rain movements, for the “Raindrop Creative Ballet Port de Bras” I visualized the fresh showers of springtime, welcoming tender blossoms. The port de bras rain drop movements move in two directions with both arms, then alternating one arm at a time.
Questions for Reflection & Feedback
I hope you enjoyed these nature and music-inspired creative ballet port de bras and let me know what else you’d like to learn about.
- What do you most enjoy about port de bras or arm movements?
- What do you find challenging in learning, performing, or creating port de bras?
- What movements, qualities, or sources of inspiration do you want to explore in the future?
Let’s connect by email or on Instagram @ablythecoach, I would love to hear your perspective and keep in touch!
Blythe Stephens, MFA, Bliss Catalyst
she/her or they/them
Creator of A Blythe Coach: dance through your difficulties and take leaps of faith into a joyful, fulfilling life