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#16 dirac

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 09:47 AM

Another comment on hands, not related to ballet. I remember reading somewhere (it was either John Mueller or Arlene Croce, can't remember) that Fred Astaire would pull in his middle and ring fingers in an attempt to hide the large size of his hands.


Astaire's self consciousness about his hands was widely noted. I remember Leslie Caron remarking on it in an interview, too.

#17 bart

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 10:09 AM

No such thing as repose. There is always a flow of energy through the body, including the extremities, even when "still."

Great point. Coincidentally, we worked on this in beginner/intermediate Monday night. It's difficult!

There are videos on Martine van Hamel's Ballerina Gallery page. Check the "bouree" variation from Raymonda (3:24) if you want to see textbook hands.

Thanks, carbro, for that link. It's beautiful to see van Hamel again. That's a lovely Raymonda variation -- and so are the other clips, including Sylvia with Patrick Bissell. Great memories.

#18 Old Fashioned

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 11:12 AM

That particular claw/petal formation of the hands and fingers has been a major complaint of classical ballet teachers since it began and has been politely referred to as choreographic. It doesn't extend the arm's line and really transforms the line of the arm into a line segment - as does severely breaking the wrist. The classical school wisdom that I always heard was that if you are doing anything that truncates the line of the arm, you are engaging in someone's choreography. Same holds true for winging the feet.


If the fingers are extended out further yet still maintain some curvature, I think the position can be lovely and I don't think it breaks the arm's line. It's the wrist position that breaks it.

Sometimes the pointer finger can be raised too high. It's not really fair to judge from a photograph since dancing should allow for fluidity in the movement of the hands, but I've seen some dancers that exaggerate the position of the finger too often.

Regarding Van Hamel, the first time I saw that video that was the first thing I noticed: how expressive and delicate her hands are! And personally, I don't see a huge difference between her hands and the supposed "choreographic" hands...her fingers are held relatively far apart.

#19 Haglund's

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 12:14 PM

That particular claw/petal formation of the hands and fingers has been a major complaint of classical ballet teachers since it began and has been politely referred to as choreographic. It doesn't extend the arm's line and really transforms the line of the arm into a line segment - as does severely breaking the wrist. The classical school wisdom that I always heard was that if you are doing anything that truncates the line of the arm, you are engaging in someone's choreography. Same holds true for winging the feet.


If the fingers are extended out further yet still maintain some curvature, I think the position can be lovely and I don't think it breaks the arm's line. It's the wrist position that breaks it.

Sometimes the pointer finger can be raised too high. It's not really fair to judge from a photograph since dancing should allow for fluidity in the movement of the hands, but I've seen some dancers that exaggerate the position of the finger too often.

Regarding Van Hamel, the first time I saw that video that was the first thing I noticed: how expressive and delicate her hands are! And personally, I don't see a huge difference between her hands and the supposed "choreographic" hands...her fingers are held relatively far apart.

I found VanHamel's hands in that video extremely choreographic and far from text book. There are teachers out there who might want to tape her thumbs down. But what she is doing appears to be, for the most part, the choreography, including all the wrist movements. That's different from letting the thumb, pointer finger and little finger take on lives of their own and thereby distort and segment the line.

#20 rg

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 03:28 PM

i've always found FONTEYN's hands very expressive and individual and full of 'gesture' - here's a photo of her as Ondine - it's ident. simply says her name, and claims to show 'Les Sylphides' and is dated from the newspaper foto archive that held it: jan. 17, 1964 - prob. in the paper's files for a royal ballet tour around that time.

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#21 rg

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 03:51 PM

in a letter from Ann Hutchinson Guest to THE DANCING TIMES May 1998 the following illustration was published by Guest to illustrate Nijinsky's own notation (see top drawing on musical staff) of Cecchetti exercises for 'the position of the hand at the barre'
Guest writes: '(observe his wish to transpose the indications for the five fingers with the 2/4 indication of the meter) with the equivalent in Labanotation and the best I do in drawing a picture of the position:'

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#22 Paul Parish

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 10:15 PM

THe women of the Bolshoi Ballet have a remarkable, highly stylized placement of the fingers that I've never seen elsewhere -- the fingers extend, almost to the point of curving BACK, but the whole hand is held like a tight budded flower, so it looks like a slender tulip. It's actually very beautiful, and the more you study it the stranger but lovelier it becomes.

Examples are legion -- Bessmertnova's hands exemplified this look. Ananiashvili, when she danced the DYing Swan, used her fingers in a mesmerizing way which can be seen in a youtube clip -- she'll close a phrase by letting the fingers curl in as if they were wilting; it's especially noticeable in hte curtain call, where it's almost like a Photoshop effect. What incredible atention to detail!

#23 Old Fashioned

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 06:33 AM

THe women of the Bolshoi Ballet have a remarkable, highly stylized placement of the fingers that I've never seen elsewhere -- the fingers extend, almost to the point of curving BACK, but the whole hand is held like a tight budded flower, so it looks like a slender tulip. It's actually very beautiful, and the more you study it the stranger but lovelier it becomes.


Is this an example of what you're talking about? I wonder if any particular classical hand position could have been adapted from folk dance. Nina's right hand in the photograph looks very oriental to me. With the fingers extended back like that and the fingers spread apart, it looks like a common hand position used in traditional Chinese dance, except the thumb would be touching the middle finger.

#24 bart

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 06:57 AM

Ananiashvili, when she danced the DYing Swan, used her fingers in a mesmerizing way which can be seen in a youtube clip -- she'll close a phrase by letting the fingers curl in as if they were wilting; it's especially noticeable in hte curtain call, where it's almost like a Photoshop effect. What incredible atention to detail!

An extraordinary performance. Thank you, Paul, for calling attention to it.

So many dancers do this piece. It's always moving. But I am actually surprised when I am moved to tears by the artistry, and not distracted by irrelevant feelings about the sadness of animal abuse.

#25 printscess

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 10:02 AM

The finger grouping and line of the hand as it relates to the arm is one of the first things that should be taught in a ballet class. Often this aspect of ballet teaching is over looked. "Bad" hands can not only detract from the beauty of a dancer but deter the dance student from accomplishing many aspects of technique. Holding too much tension in the hands makes it very difficult to feel the body, legs and arms. When any part of the body holds too much tension, other aspects of training will not be accomplished. For the most part, if a dancer succeeds in attaining employment, the "bad" hands situation is not evident.

Different schools of ballet teaching have different finger groupings and hand alignment. What may be beautiful usage of the hands and arms in one method of teaching may be frowned upon in another. :smilie_mondieu:


Balanchine was very specific in how dancers held their hands (see remark about Patty McBride) and the turn-out from their hips. SAB produces dancers with a definite style of holding themselves. I onced asked a ballet teacher who was not from SAB or NYCB if he could tell where dancers or students trained by the way they danced. He said the give-away was how they held their hands.

#26 ngitanjali

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 02:51 PM

This is a personal anecdote, but the first thing that came to my mind after reading this thread (v. interesting!). I started my first ballet class when I was five. Honestly, the only thing I remember from those early lessons was how to hold my hands, like I was holding a delicate piece of popcorn between my thumb and my middle finger. Somehow, that caught my imagination early on, and I never lost my habit of holding my hands and fingers like that. Even now, as I'm walking, my hands revert back to the old, "natural" position.

I guess that's what ballet is all about, huh? The steps we learn become natural, and those of every day life, are....unnatural.

Just my $.02

#27 Paul Parish

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 04:53 PM

Old-Fashioned, that's a PERFECT example of the tulip at its most open; they often /usually hold the fingers and thumb closer together, though still distinctly separated. Nelli Kobakhidze (here's a link to Danish Ballet Journal http://www.dropshots...03-08/23:29:26) has this to a beautiful degree. It's a Bolshoi thing, and I wouldn't be surprised (though I do NOT know) if it were a holdover of Moscow ways that orient more to Asia than to Europe.

I remember being told by a Javanese dancer that they have several versions of their sacred dance, the bedoya -- on a scale from ritual to theatrical, the most sacred version, the dancers keep their hands "like closed lotus buds,' and in the most theatrical, the hands are hyperextended, like hte full-blown flower, fingers actually curling back.

I've been taught in the other, the St Petersburg-based Ballets Russes Franco-Russian tradition, just like you; in fact, my teacher corrects our hands by having us drop the arm, relax everything, let the hands swing, and look at the finger-groupings -- now raise that to second positoin -- that's it, she says. It does seem to be what the hand does when it's most liquid and relaxed.

#28 innopac

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 06:03 PM

[font=georgia,serif][size=4]"One of the most eloquent of the voices of the body is the hand. It is its function to give completion to movement and gesture." José Limón[/size][/font]

http://balletbooks.b...e-of-hands.html

#29 sandik

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 10:47 AM

I'm so glad to see the Limon quote -- he made a big deal out of hands in his training. He comes from the tradition that worked hard not to look like ballet -- hands had power as well as grace for him.


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