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Ballet Talk for Dancers

thumb position


jimpickles

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When I saw the picture in this link: http://www.faubourgschoolofballet.net/news.htm (scroll down the page, the picture on the right with everyone in white, as I assume its the one that is meant to be most classical) I was suprised by the splayed fingers and particularly by the very open thumbs. However, I have been told that there are cultural differences in particularly in the thumb position (we are told to keep all fingers and the thumb fairly closed to make one curve, but that at least in the USA the thumb is often kept far out). Is this the case?

 

Thanks,

 

Jim.

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It would be very surprising to find a teacher who actually teaches the thumb out. I have never heard a teacher ask for that anywhere in the world actually. Vaganova thumb, the thumb lays on top of the 2nd joint of the middle finger, as the fingers reach outward in a straight line. As the dancer matures the thumb will naturally separate from the middle finger but continue to lay flat.

 

Actually in the photo you have noted, the arms when rounded do not show thumbs sticking out. When the arms are in allonge the thumbs are in, just not attached to the other fingers. Although the shape of the arms are not the greatest, I have seen worse. I am not sure anymore what you mean. :yucky:

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Thanks for that - I dont want to labour the point, so dont want to take it further, but it occurred to me since I saw it in that photo and often in others - one example of what I mean is the dancer on the left of the right figure, with her hand towards the centre of the page - the thumb is well away from the fingers, and very different from what you describe of the thumb near the fingers.

 

Many thanks for your reply,

 

Jim.

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Jim, I agree with vrs that this photo is not bad at all compared to many you might see. There is a slight separation in the allongé position, as she said, but it is not extreme or exaggerated. The one that is not good is the girl in the center back with the index finger sticking out. :yucky:

 

The thumb should be slightly separate, or the hand would look like a fish fin, and also the wrist would have no freedom. The problem comes when the thumb or any of the fingers are really splayed, which one does see a lot in certain dancers, but it is certainly not something that is taught or desired in this country any more than it is anywhere else. It is more widely accepted in the Balanchine repertoire, as they tend to use a more exaggerated hand and wrist style.

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It was suprised to see this!! That is actually my studio! I started going there only a few months ago, but Casey is constantly saying "CALLIE THUMBS" because the school i went to before taught us to tuck it under almost like you had no thumb! But Casey {{the main director}} does like to see the whole hand i guess thumbs and all!

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Which is fine, as long as they are not exaggerated, which I do not think they are in the photo.

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Vaganova thumb, the thumb lays on top of the 2nd joint of the middle finger, as the fingers reach outward in a straight line. As the dancer matures the thumb will naturally separate from the middle finger but continue to lay flat.

 

I also guess there is some "space for freedom" that teachers take for themelves. I was taught to keep my thumb exatctly in that way you described, even if not laid against the joint but slightly separated from it. In allongé my teacher does not want the thumb to stick out at all, but be almost in a soft line with the other fingers. However she has this idea that even when forming a "straight line" they should not be compact, but slightly at different heigths (it's really question of millimeters). Is this a specific syllabus or just an idea of her own.

 

In any case you can have a three-hour class with the lady teaching at La Scala that will tell you about the correct angle to keep as for your joints... :crying:

 

Vrs, can I ask you which books-sites I should look for to learn more about the Vaganova method? I am interested in it, and have seen some books on the web, but don't know if some of them might be...not worthy!

 

thanks a lot!

Holly

ps. hands are the most difficult thing to do!

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Are we discussing sticking out the thumb like hitch hiking or :crying:? The Thumb should disappear from view when looking at the hand from the back, however when looking at the hand in profile the thumb is separated from the indented middle finger. This is not considered a thumb sticking out in ballet teaching terms.

 

Go through the Amazon link at the top of our BT4D website to search for Kostrovitskaya's The School of Classical Dance and Tarasov's The Training of the Male Dancer. These two manuals are considered the best available in the US on Vaganova training. Kostrovitskaya is available however Tarasov is out of print and expensive when it does show up in used books, but well worth the money.

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thanks Vrs :crying: ! I'll check a European site tho the .com doesn't ship here!

The description you gave of the thumb position sounds like what I am taught at my studio, but much better explained than what I could do :) ! For my part, when I talk about a sticking out thumb I mean whenyour hand looks like you are holding a rubber ball - I on't know about the other though!

 

Holly

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Many thanks for these informative points. If its OK I'd like to follow up with another question on the hand and fingers. In Classical Ballet Technique p. 31 "closing the arm from 2nd to 1st position" it says "the wrist bends slightly and the fingers trail behind" - I guess most people would agree that these almost imperceptible extra movements of the wrist and fingers add enormously to expressiveness, but overdone they are mannered and vulgar.

 

I guess therefore that they should only be done to an extent that comes "naturally". However, in the book these movements are demonstrated on women, and I wonder to what extent they are appropriate for men. I have not seen enough men's performances in detail to be able to see for myself. Should I as a male (and a lanky one, rather than as a compact, muscular one) go for this little bit of extra movement in the hands or not? Are they expected less in men than women? Are they appropriate at all for men?

 

To my mind, some hand movements imply power and muscularity, whereas, others, such as the one above, imply the opposite, and emphasise the flowing effortless quality of the movement.

 

Many thanks,

 

Jim.

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Men's hand movements are similar to women's, but with more restraint and subtlety. Some teachers like large port de bras on men, but they don't have to look like swans when they do them. Eagles will suffice.

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Great metaphor! I think I'll be an eagle from now on!

 

Many thanks,

 

Jim.

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Here is one in German- unfortunately I have not been able to find a site in Italian that carries it, amazon.it does not seem to exist???! The book is English though.

 

http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/ASIN/0486...2951257-4066931

 

Exactly, there is no such thing like amazon.it :wub::grinning::huepfen: ... in fact when I had to buy books for my thesis I went with amazon.de because they were less expensive than those bought in the uk :jump: ...

thanks for letting me know!

Holly

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My understanding of the hand position is that it originated from the dancer holding the skirt between the thumb and the index finger, thus the thumb would be almost touching the index finger (and would therefore be "under" the hand. This would also explain the first finger (the pointer finger) being slightly curved. Has anyone else heard this?

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