Amongst everything else we’re expected to reach perfection within ballet, hands are possibly the most intimate and sought out element. Get the hands wrong and it is more or less a done deal. From the very beginning of our ballet journeys, we’re taught and drilled that hands are the most vital element. They demonstrate the clean and classical line whilst adding that storyline expression.
Just as the hands are used to punctuate our daily conversations, they play a vital part in conveying expression and meaning in classical dance. The hands' placement is a critical element when stepping on the stage or turning up to rehearsals.
Whilst most dancers have beautiful placed hands in flowing motion, all too often we see fussy or mannered hands, which can seriously undermine your own success. It’s essential to prevent bad habits forming, hands should never seem fussy, clumpy or unnatural. Instead, they should glide and fall into graceful lines, they must be alive.
Ultimately, hamburger hands in ballet is an aesthetic issue. It’s one that will boost you from the star of the show to the superstar of the show.
The last thing you want is the dreaded hamburger hands in ballet, hindering your success.
In terms of hands and ballet, there is nothing worse than seeing a clump of 'dead' fingers resembling pork sausages on the end of your arm.
You might be wondering what exactly hamburger hands in ballet are, or if you’ve been told you’ve got them, you’re more than likely desperate to know how to improve arms in ballet.
The good news:in dance, hamburger hands can be reversed and you’ll have those arms in ballet looking beautiful in no time with the help of our hamburger hands in ballet and how to fix them, guide.
Ultimately, hamburger hands in ballet is an aesthetic issue. It’s one that will boost you from the star of the show to the superstar of the show. Poor mannerisms make a big difference in ballet and learning to correct them and pick up on your own errors early is the best way to reverse it.
It’s not uncommon to see ballet dancers with their thumbs spread outwards. Especially those in their teens that have just made a transition from one company to another, or those struggling with stress and mental wellness. The spread thumb look is often known as “Hamburger Hands” purely because it looks like the student is holding a large hamburger.
You might be wondering how hamburger hands came to be, especially if you always had such graceful and soft hands before. If you always had flowing hands previously, this could either be a case of stress or picking up bad habits. Losing your discipline. Stress commonly takes up camp in our neck or our hands, so jagged and rough hands take place of the once delicate extension of our arms.
You’ll be pleased to know that achieving, or reversing, troublesome arms and hands are possible. To help you, we’ve put together tips and tricks that dancers all over the world practise to ensure that their hands and arms placement add emotion and aid their performance, as opposed to hindering it.
Sometimes, life gets in the way of our performance. As much as we try to disconnect everything it can all catch up to you. Perhaps it’s exam season, perhaps there’s been a breakdown in a relationship somewhere, or perhaps it’s the love of a lost one, or you may just be struggling with maintaining a healthy mental mindset, and that’s okay. We are all human. Reach out and get the support that you need. We are all affected by bumps in the road at some point in our personal lives and our careers, and getting support is nothing to be afraid nor ashamed of. Refocusing your tension in your hands and wrists into your core can be an effective way to change hamburger hands short-term.
If you have determined that stress is the ultimate reason for your new found hand problem, taking a yoga or pilates class can be a fantastic way to help you relieve the built-up tension.
Just like the rest of our body, our hands, fingers and wrists need gentle movement and stretching of the joints and muscles to continue working smoothly and together. Warm up the muscles prior to the dance, hamburger hands can be a case of hands that were just not ready to perform yet.
Try slow and gentle wrist rolls in both directions aiming for a full range of movement.
Warming up the muscles helps to lengthen them, and loosen up fascia (our connective tissue). This is especially important in cooler temperatures as colder muscles cannot stretch as easily, therefore, muscles are more vulnerable and involuntarily tense up, causing hamburger hands. You’ll know if your hamburger hands are caused by not warming up if you notice a significant drop in the winter. Get into the habit of warming up your wrists and hands before ballet. After all, our hands are just as involved in movement phrase works like the rest of our body.
To help you warm up, try slow and gentle wrist rolls in both directions aiming for a full range of movement. Point fingers down and back up, and try flexing your hands towards your face and pointing the fingers in the downwards position. You can also try gently pulling the top hand to get a mild stretch through the arm. Another effective stretch is scrunching your fingers into a fist and then releasing them. Don’t forget to finish off with a shake.
Exercises, such as, quickly touching each finger to the thumb at different speeds and different orders can help fine tune the muscles in your fingers and allow your body to connect with each muscle, knowing exactly where each finger is.
Unfortunately, in the digital age, our constant scrolling on social media and constant device use takes a toll on our hands and wrists. Typing causes fatigue and cramping which can cause a strain on our performance in dance. Limiting your device use can help reverse the effects that devices have on our fluidity, precision and strength in ballet.
No, we’re not talking about heading off for some extravagant procedure here, instead, use what you have. Whilst standing in line at the store, feel the shape of each object and allow your hand to roam freely gripping and releasing. In the same way, you’d mould your hand around a stress ball, allow your hand to follow the lines and the energy of the object. It’s best to try lots of different shapes and textures to prevent muscle memory.
In a case of mind over matter, sometimes all it takes is a little help from our brains. Imagine that you are painting a beautiful picture with watercolours, soft and gentle, watercolours of all different colours of the spectrum are flowing out of each and every fingertip, making spectacular arches and never-ending circles.
Flamenco really helps to figure out your wrist and finger placement. This beautiful Spanish art form can be a great way to stop hamburger hands in ballet. If your company doesn’t offer flamenco, see if you can take a class outside of your studio.
Regularly shaking out your hands helps to keep your hands and wrists fluid and keeps the blood moving through the hands. Instead of heading straight for the hand dryer, give your hands a little shake, it’s a great time to remind yourself to embrace your inner T. Swift and shake it off!
Us dancers know and feel all parts of our bodies and how it’s connected - so taking care of our hands and wrists is just as important as caring for your legs, arms, back and neck. Not only will your technique and artistry be better off for it, but you’ll be more graceful and be able to transfer these skills for specific cultural dance forms and character dance. Take care of your hands and wrists and wave bye-bye to hamburger hands, for good!
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