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Ballet Talk for Dancers

help with hands!


keguri

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I studied ballet as an adult for about 6 years, and recently came back to it after a 4 year hiatus. I started with the absolute beginner class, since I am not in the best shape anymore and didn't want to push myself to hard. In one class, anyway, the teacher's corrections are almost exclusively restricted to my hands and arms. Somehow I find the hand position extremely difficult to grasp. Does the hand change shape through the movements of the arms. Do different schools of training hold the hands differently (my first class was Cacchetti, but this is Vaganova? Is the hand position different for men and women? (I'm male) Part of the problem, I think, is that my upper body has a lot of tension in it.

I have particular difficulty because I can't actually communicate with my teacher (I'm taking the class in Korea)!

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Welcome keguri to Ballet Talk for Dancers. Please a take moment to visit the Welcome Forum to introduce yourself and tell us a bit about yourself.

 

As for the hand positions in ballet, yes, different methods have different shaped hands. And yes, the hand position for the male dancer in Vaganova is a bit different in usage from the female, although the shape is the same. You can hopefully find the correct shape of the hand if you stand relaxed with your arms at your side, with your hands dangling freely, palms facing toward the back of the room. For most people, the thumb will naturally fall inside of the hand and the 4 fingers will shape themselves correctly. Try to do this with your teacher at first. If your teacher really knows the Vaganova method of teaching, from beginner to the most advanced level, what I have just described will make sense. Gently lift and turn your fingers toward one another as if lifting a light basket of flowers or something delicate you do not wish to crush or break. Your palms should face up to your face, thumbs laying gently inside your palms, pinky slightly separated from the 4th finger in the line of the wrist, middle finger indented slightly inward, index finger slightly lifted and even with the level of the 4th finger drawing the straight line of the wrist. Do this a few times a day and get used to the feeling of lightness rather the feeling of holding.

 

I work a bit in Japan and love Japanese food, although the shape of the hand is not the same, the feeling of lightness of holding chopsticks is the same. If you can imagine how little effort it is to hold chopsticks correctly, this might help in understanding the simplicity of the finger groupings in the Vaganova method.

 

All the best to you with the hand and hopefully you will come to realize that the way you hold your hand is key to how you will use the all important upper back. :) Enjoy your ballet lessons!

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Thank you for the wonderful answer to my question. I've tried doing exactly what you suggest, and will try it again in class tomorrow. Even though I'm not sure if I'm doing it correctly, I can at least see how I was putting far too much tension in my hands before. I have to keep on reminding myself how important it is to feel the positions from within rather than imitate them from outside! This was always difficult, but it is even more difficult now, since I have to rely almost completely on visual cues in class.

 

(I introduced myself on the welcome board, as you suggested...)

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keguri, I read your wonderful introduction. What an interesting life! I speak three languages, two, Italian and Russian due to ballet. The visual aspects of learning ballet are wonderful. To this day, I can say much more about teaching ballet in Italian and Russian than have adult conversations in either language. It is a wonderful way to learn a language.

 

Ask your teacher to help you with the hand issue. It can be very visual. Watch your teacher's hands in class and practice hand relaxation on your own. I sometimes still practice port de bras in grocery store isles. Sounds odd, but there is something about reaching with both arms out to the side in the isle that is like a balletic allonge. :thumbsup:

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Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed my introduction. I definitely understand what you mean about the importance of the visual. In some ways I find it easier to concentrate fully in class in Korea. Often in America I would get very distracted by the language that my teacher used --- especially when the teacher expressed herself very beautifully ---, but now I find that I have to focus more on what I see, and my own inner sense of my movements. And my Korean is actually improving...

I tried follow what your advise about the hand. I know I have a very, very long way to go, but occasionally I could feel that my hand was moving differently, and in a more connected way, with the arm and back. And I really like the chopstick image. I tried to imagine holding chopsticks, and it really helped!

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