Many dancers are often asked to execute various moves before they even understand the functionality of the moves they are being asked to do. This leads to bad posture, poor alignment, and in many cases, even injury. Port de bras and cambrés are one of those moves that dancers never get to spend much time on, and a misunderstanding of one of the fundamental moves in ballet can halt a dancers progress.
The term “port de bras” can be used for nearly everything that involves movement of the arms, even if it’s not officially a port de bras. When it comes to the Vaganova method, there are very specific port de bras that have names. For example, there is first, second, third, forth, fifth, and sixth port de bras. Just like we have positions of the feet, we also have 1-6 port de bras in Vaganova. However, it is important to note that port de bras is a movement executed specifically by the arms, not the back.
On the other hand, when it comes to movement of the back, we have the term “cambre”. Cambré is the French word for “arched”, and is when a dancer moves or arches the back. Therefore, when an instructor says to “port de bras forward”, they really mean “cambre forward”. Cambré involves the upper body (above the hips) and is also referred to as port de corps, which means movement of the body, however, this term is rarely used anymore. Cambrés can be done forwards, backwards, to either side, in a circle, in tendu, in plié, in a lunge, in passé, in attitude, basically they can be done in nearly any position. Combrés are most commonly used at the barre during warm up or stretching, but is some cases they are used in reverences or an adagio.