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Men's Port de Bras

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#16 leonid17


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Posted 24 December 2006 - 05:38 AM


I don't agree that expression by ballet port de bras is inherently feminine or masculine, but perhaps that's not what you meant. I think guys can be just as uniquely expressive as women, and the tools given to them are neutral.

One of my favorite mime passages is in the Royal Ballet's video of the Nutcracker with Alina Cojocaru and Ivan Putrov, where the Nutcracker is describing the rat battle to the Sugar Plum Fairy. I think this sequence shows a very male perspective on the expressiveness of port de bras.


Forgive me Andre Yew, but gesture, which is a part of mime, is not the same as port de bras in my understanding of the term as used in academic classical ballet.

#17 Andre Yew

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Posted 24 December 2006 - 10:03 AM

In fact, to my eyes, when the dance the same steps in synchronicity there is still quite a difference. Do you see it?

Yes, there is quite a difference, but I also don't think there is a wider range of non-verbal communication for women than men as there are many things men use that women generally don't.

Leonid, you are right. I should have said something less specific than "port de bras" in that sentence. I was thinking more about physical expression than just port de bras.


#18 leonid17


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Posted 24 December 2006 - 11:59 AM


I think that females, in general use body language and things like clothes and make up and all sorts of things not normally used by males for non verbal communication.

This doesn't mean that these non verbal modes of communication are feminine or female. But we are more accustomed to reading the expanded vocabulary of non verbal language from women.

So to bring this back to port de bras, perhaps in ballet choreography since it IS so non verbal, we see port de bras with respect to males differently and maybe even used less or differently by choreographers and dancers. I am too inexperienced to know, but clearly males and females are usually very different roles and we expect them to be different. In fact, to my eyes, when the dance the same steps in synchronicity there is still quite a difference. Do you see it?

Port de bras(or more correctly gesture)is extremely verbal as it support the steps in a variation. Which can confirm romantic afilliation, sorrow, humour or anger. Choose your example your self. Non-verbal communication is the essence of 19th century ballet and in the best exponents it moves you as much as a personal physical/verbal experience. Siegfried communicates clearly as does Albrecht. Jean de Brienne, Basil etci. If not, how would we know what is going on in their relationship?

#19 artist


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Posted 03 March 2007 - 09:31 PM

DefJef wrote a comment in my blog (scroll to the bottom of the entry to read it and my response) that brought up the issue of men's port de bras in ballet. To paraphrase, he wrote that to him men's port de bras is less "visible" than women's. I agree with this; men's arms are definitely not emphasized as much as women's. So, a few questions for our members:

Why do you think this is?

What male ballet dancers have you noticed who have exemplary port de bras and why?

I've always thought that male dancers have a softer, gentler look to their arms and the way they carry them. Although it is very held and strong, they still show no strain. And the fingers, still very relaxed, unlike how women tend to 'perk' them up.

After all, they do have to support the woman, but if they had the same energy coming out of their arms to their fingertips as women do, they'd prob. knock the woman off pointe in pirouettes. So then it must be imperative to be gentle, thus, excelling in Spectre b/c of the arm quality.

Maybe their arms are naturally made for caressing [their partner] and have to have a softness to them. Their arms are also structurely bigger.

#20 Mel Johnson

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 05:44 AM

And in Les Sylphides, Nijinsky was famously touching himself all the time...

Paul, can you clarify a bit on this?

The only "famous" part I can think of was of Nijinsky touching himself as the Poet comes in the diagonal backwards after the pirouette in arabesque. It's two mazurka steps traveling backward, an assemblÚ, entrechat six and a pas de basque glissÚ. On the last movement in the pas de basque, Nijinsky was supposed to have drawn the tops of the right hand fingers down his extended left leg. I learned this part (without the caress) from Vitale Fokine, and asked if I could try it. He said, "Yeah, sure, maybe it'll work for you." After a few rehearsals, I asked if I could drop that bit. I felt like I was making a very unRomantic pretzel. He said, "OK with me, I guess that was just something Nijinsky did that was his alone, but I never say no if somebody asks; maybe they can rediscover it!"

#21 vissi d'arte

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 12:48 PM

I would say that mens port de bras is just as important as womens (except for swan lake maybe) but male dancers has to be much more straightforward in how they use their arms. You don't notice male dancers port de bras as much as females, but if a male dancers has a weak port de bras it looks really silly.
Perhaps you don't notice mens port de bras as much because male dancers should really avoid to break the line of the arms and the wrist, because it will look mannered and not strong.

I think for example Paris Opera Ballets Manuel Legris has very nice port de bras!! (He has gorgeous technique as well)!!! :shake:

#22 4mrdncr


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Posted 13 March 2007 - 06:32 PM

Two examples of 'mirroring' port de bras/arms by (IMHO) one of the best (sorry haven't seen much POB or other companies greats lately)...

SWAN LAKE: (ABT Corella/Murphy dvd)

No, not Murphy...Watch Corella in the White Swan pdd:
1) That romantic circling frame as he lifts her arms at the start
2) then, when she passes and looks (to her) right, so does he
3) When she developes in prep for the pirouette and looks left, so does he
4) During the fouette arabesques fondus, notice the pdb/cambre (?) back and turn to face her
5) And especially shortly after, notice his beautiful bend,arch of head/neck, & full extension when he catches her as she falls (penches/cambres?) backwards.
6) Ditto Black Swan every time she does those croise penche arabesques, he turns his head to mirror her line (or is it just to see placement better?)

DON Q pdd: (ABT Corella/Herrera - ABT/PBS 1998 dvd)

In all the chaine turn sequences that end with a hand flourish, and of course the en dehors attitude turns--it was like watching two pairs skaters at the Olympics they were so in sync. At one point you can actually see him look, and pause to time the turns to match her. I've seen him keep an eye on his ballerina many times in other works in order to "mirror" her moves.

And I'm sorry, but I don't think anyone can complain about his epaulement. Many, many times I've seen him extend the line and enhance the presentation of the ballerina by a superb use of arms/shoulders/head in a port de bras. Don't know if this is quite what all of you mean, just two things I noticed.

I agree about Dowell (whom I did see live several times). Other ABT male dancers have superb line too, but don't use it the same--usually much more pulled up (and separate)--which is probably more traditional.
Just a thought.

#23 bart


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Posted 14 March 2007 - 06:36 AM

Wow! Thanks, 4mrdncr. I'm off to the dvd player. :)

A second tought. It's observations like this that confirm my belief that the best ballet performances contain so much to look at, ponder, and relish. I appreciate all the help in doing this that I can get.

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