One of the basic poses in ballet, arabesque takes its name from a form of Moorish ornament. In ballet it is a position of the body, in profile, supported on one leg … with the other leg extended behind and at right angles to it, and the arms held in various harmonious positions creating the longest possible line from the fingertips to the toes. The shoulders must be held square to the line of direction.
—The Dover Dictionary of Classical Ballet

The arabesque looks simple at first: a storklike standing on one leg, the other leg arrowed straight back, a banner, a comet’s tail. The arabesque is odd (which explains the mixed metaphor in the previous sentence). It is complex, a pulse point of oppositions: vertical versus horizontal, stillness versus flight. And it is subject to strict rules. Dover’s dictate about the shoulders—that they must be held...

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