Eileen

Use of Hands to Describe Combinations

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Several years ago I was fortunate to sit in on a class given by Suki Schorer and saw that she instructed the advanced girls in a combination the following way: They gathered around her, and with a few ballet terms, she motioned the combination using her hands alone. This was very interesting, because the students all immediately got it and were off and flying through the room.

Recently I viewed the film of Balanchine's career shown at City Ballet and there is a clip from a 50's TV show demonstrating how Balanchine choreographed. And I saw - he instructed his dancers with only a few ballet terms and he used his hands to indicate the steps!

Did Balanchine originate this technique of using hands to symbolize steps? Is this traditional in all ballet companies and academies? Is it from Russia?

I'd appreciate any information on this, as it piqued my curiosity.

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I don't think you will be able to find an origin. I think it is a natural thing for teachers to do when they can't or don't want to fully demonstrate steps. Every teacher I have had or seen, regardless of background has done this. Indicating with one's hands sees natural, just as one gestures while talking or giving a description - this is just describing steps.

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Hand-marking is old, old as the hills, and not just limited to ballet. One George Washington biographer describes the General during a wartime ball, dancing the first dances full out, then as the evening grew long, he would begin to walk the figures, and do the more complex steps by hand-marking.

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