During a ballet class, while watching young, aspiring ballerinas perfect their technique, I heard the teacher describe the Arabesque position. It is one of the most beautiful, graceful, and difficult poses in ballet in which the dancer's arm creates a long, lean line in front of their body. The fingers must be just the right amount of relaxed, yet shaped with precision. The leg needs to stretch. The foot must not be sickled. The toes fiercely pointed. But those fingers, that arm, must reach.
She walked up and down the wooded barre, making personal corrections where needed. Moving an arm half an inch here, a finger or thumb half a flinch there, until a picture perfect statue was formed by each dancer. But it didn't stop with limbs.
"I want to see it in your face." She said. "What are you reaching for? I want to see your hopes and dreams written on your face." In a mere second, expressions of indifference, hesitance, and concentration were transformed into those of longing and passion. The teacher nodded at me, giving me the go ahead for their musical preparation of the exercise. "Look at your finger tips, and show me your hopes and dreams."
5 and a, 6 and a, 7 and 8...I knew I would never have the physical grace and beauty of a dancer, but feeling certain that the longing on my face was identical to theirs, I watched my fingertips as I played, day dreaming about future hopes and dreams.
Yuan Yuan Tan in arabesque position
in Nutcracker (photo, Erik Tomasson)
From Behind the Piano...