Training dancers from the start to be aware of their hands and fingers can make an enormous difference as they advance through the levels. But this small detail is easily overlooked because there is one other item we must teach them that is far more important.
How to dance safely.
And, of course, dancing safely requires excellent technique which requires loads of time and instruction.
So where does that leave hands and fingers? Usually nowhere.
To confront this issue, I have three suggestions that utilize the hand(s) placed on the barre. Seeing how we spend so much time at the barre, it only makes sense to incorporate hands and fingers while we are there.
Suggestion One: Wrist Lifted
While the hand (or hands) is placed on the barre the wrist should remain lifted. Much like a pianist’s. This will help train the wrist to not break while dancing in the centre.
Suggestion Two: Hands Placed Gently
The hands should always rest on the barre gently. There should be a great deal of focus on not allowing tension between the palm of the hand and the barre.
Suggestion Three: All On Top
I have encountered some students who have been taught to place only two fingers on the barre. I understand the thought behind this is to keep the dancers from gripping the barre. However, in my experience, I find they end up gripping even harder with those two fingers which creates very strange habits in the fingers. Keeping all fingers (including the thumb!) on top of the barre and maintaining a restful feeling in the fingers creates healthy habits.
These suggestions will not work if the teacher does not quite literally hound the students about it. We all know the first thing to slip is the smallest detail. Hands and fingers fit into that category. Your students will naturally grip, break the wrist, and clench when they are struggling or focusing on other details. It must become muscle memory for them. But the benefits are so lovely and will transfer to their dancing away from the barre.
Plus, with a softer healthier touch on the barre the dancer will have to rely exclusively on their core to hold themselves up. It all works together splendidly!