In the great debate of hands and hand placement, I realized, hands might most be the most intimate part of ballet. The hands finish the line, the hands direct the audience, the hands create the most intricate negative space on the body. The hands glide into a woman’s waistline, a man offer his hand and a female delicately places her hand into his and a story is created. They might be one of the most beautiful parts of ballet.
The problem? Not everyone has the most graceful or refined hands… Some of you might have hamburger hands, some of you might have claws, some have oven mitts, extreme pointing up fingers, wiggly fingers or just really awkward stiff hands… A large problem with this is how we approach fine motor skills in ballet. A lot of teachers focus on the larger movements of ballet and forget the subtle refinement of breath in different parts of the lung, eye line, fingers, wrist articulation and scapula rotation; all things that can distinguish a dancer from being a technician and an artist.
So, how do you refine these skills? Just like ballet skill sets, you cross train them. Since my tremor has developed, my hands have become something I have been extremely focused on, and the PT to restrengthen them. Which is what brought along this post.
-If you hold tension in your hands or wrist, refocus the tension into your core.
-Make sure you stretch out your fingers and wrists, and warm them up before class. They are just as important.
-Do exercises like touching each finger to the thumb at different speeds and at different orders.
-Reshape the hand by feeling the energy and shape just in the hand while standing in line waiting for things.
-Shake out your hands constantly and keep the blood moving through the hand.
–Flamenco really helps figure out the articulation of the wrist and fingers, if your studio doesn’t offer flamenco, try to take a class outside of your studio. Look at ballroom studios if they offer it as a supplemental class.
Another issue is whether or not to break, relax, flex or elongate the wrist.
The standard is to always keep the line as long as possible, but nowadays we are seeing much more stylize port de bras and hands. If you even look at videos from the top ballet companies in the world, the wrists are becoming more and more broken (i would post pics but don’t own the rights, so just google on your own) and the lines are becoming more and more extreme. I always say the hands and wrist articulation will vary on the role, and I actually don’t believe there is a right way or wrong way to find what looks best on your body. For example, my wrists have extremely ulna ends, making it look like my wrist is always broken. So trying to do the “classical” hand and line looks funky on me. But, when I relax my wrist and I let it break slightly, it is more natural looking and I have more articulation and range. But the shape of my hand can vary depending on the role and choreography.