The intermediate dancer has a ton to think about. Not only in ballet, but in life. These kids are carrying so much stress around with them. Between school, friend drama, and nightmarish hormones, it is no wonder they come into ballet looking like anxiety-ridden zombies.
Our challenge is to help them see that technique is there to support them and make life easier, more lovely. The technique of hands and fingers is no exception, and likely needs a bit more focus because it is generally so easily forgotten.
Teaching Hands & Fingers
I tend to teach intermediate dancers by trying to figure out what questions they would ask if they knew they had questions. Some questions about hands and fingers might be:
1. Where do I put my fingers?
I very clearly tell them exactly where to put each finger and help them see how each finger creates the completed shape of the hand. We take time to look in the mirror at our fingers, and I go to each dancer and help them find the shape that best suits their hand. Ballet is personal, after all.
2. Why does my hand look odd?
They get their fingers in place, but then sometimes it all looks rather odd. This is typically because the wrist is being held in a strange fashion. I help them align their wrist and see how it compliments the shape of the fingers.
3. How do I move my fingers & hands from one place to the next?
Establishing the shape of the fingers and hands is only part one. They must then learn how to move from one position to the next. How we hold our hands in 2nd position is not the same as we do in allongé, and how we move from 2nd position to allongé requires finesse and skill. These are all things I take the time to discuss, and these are all things that will eventually play into their unique artistry, so it is vital to have these conversations at this level.
4. Is it always this way?
Like with all rules, there are exceptions—various forms of the rules. The work of the hands and fingers will be different in an adage than in a grand allegro. Exposing the students to an array of styles and variations will give them a robust vocabulary to choose from when they enter the advanced levels and have more freedom of expression.
When it comes down to it, intermediate dancers are not likely to ask questions about their hands and fingers because it just isn’t on their radar. They lack the maturity to know they have these questions so it is our responsibility to ask the question for them and to then supply the answer.