Penché Arabesque How to get a split arabesque

penché arabesque

Penché Arabesque 

penché arabesque
How To Get A 6 o’clock Penché Arabesque

How do you get a “6 o’clock penché arabesque” aka a split while in arabesque? It is much more difficult than attaining a split on the floor as that only requires a static and passive flexbility. When you are in a penché arabesque your muscles are very active and balance is paramount.

Here are some of my tips for building that arabesque into a forward split, or near split while at the barre. Be sure to watch the video below as I go through each point thoroughly from this post.

Maintain a forward stance on 1/4 demi pointe, not 1/2 or 3/4 demi pointe. This will train your legs to maintain the strength in the adductors. If you can balance in this position, you will feel:

  1. The standing leg and foot pressing against the floor.
  2. Control of your intrinsic foot muscles
  3. Find your inner thigh strength
  4. Feel the forward stance for a high penché arabesque.
  5. When you take away the barre, you further develop your two-way energy between the front arm and back toe.

Penché (pahn-SHAY): leaning, inclining

1/4 toe & flat at the barre

Keep your shoulders square and aligned over your hips in an imaginary rectangle with four corners as in photo below.

  1. Penché on flat with pointed foot and flexed foot
  2. Penché with a pointed foot and reach for the ceiling
  3. Feel your sitz bone in line with your heel. Penché arabesque
  4. Change pointed foot to a flex, fully stretch the muscles through your leg making sure your knee is straight, rotate more from the hip as you imagine standing on the ceiling with your flexed foot! The purpose is to elongate your leg and it will reach higher.


penché arabesque

Now you are ready to try it en pointe in first position with and without holding the barre.

Please note that first, you must have a proper position en pointe before attempting this exercise.

  1. Test your balance in first position en pointe. Release the barre, balance begin to bend forward to find the same muscles are your 1/4 pointe.
  2. From first position facing the barre, slowly lift your leg to arabesque.penché arabesque
  3. Keep your shoulders over your hips and your hips square. Envision a rectangle as you continue to move forward. (See photo).
  4. Do not open your hip as you will lean to one side and thereby put your ribs out of alignment. Leaning without the barre on flat or relevé will cause you to fall over.
  5. Change your arabesque to an elongated attitude and feel the knee and toe approaching the center of your head. My theory is that as you shorten the leg to an attitude, the weight feels less as the knee is lifting the leg and it is closer to the center of mass.


In any penché, you must feel the connection of your standing sitz bone well forward and over your heel. The heels must be rooted to the floor for stability on flat. I find that with a hyperextended leg, the weight will be even more forward in order to avoid “snapping back” into the back of the knee.

A Penché Arabesque Workout

Watch the video for the demonstration!

  1. 16 grand battements with an extra long theraband tied around the foot and ankle, standing on the opposite end.
  2. Hands on the floor.
  3. Hips square,
  4. Energy coming out of the arms & hand for oppositional force.

This exercise is from Eric Franklin’s book “Conditioning for Dance”

About Sarah Arnold

Ballet blogger, ballet teacher and adult ballerina. Creator of TutusChic and Sans Souci Printables.

Please feel welcome to comment & share!