Hands and fingers do ballet, too!
Teaching little ones to recognize that all parts of their body should be included in ballet is important because it helps build their awareness of space, movement, and details. All things we want our more mature dancers to understand and respect.
But you can’t just tell them to have graceful hands or put energy in their fingers. These words won’t mean much to a 3 year-old. Instead, we must find ways to engage their imagination while simultaneously training their hands and fingers to do ballet.
Five Ways I Teach Hands & Fingers
- Explore — Have the students locate their hands and fingers. Talk about how many hands/fingers we have. Discuss what it would be like if we had more hands/fingers (or fewer). Encourage the students to discover different ways their hands and fingers can dance together and apart. Can your pinky do a little solo dance? Can your hands do a duet where they are smashed together? Etc.
- Feelings — Happy, sad, confused, hungry, angry, goofy, shy—the list goes on and on. Find some music that matches the feeling and ask the students to make their hands and fingers be that mood. Scared hands! Sleepy fingers! Etc. You will find they automatically use their entire body, but encourage them to try to only use their hands and fingers. It is quite a challenge!
- Pick Up — The way we use our hands and fingers to pick up sand will be different than how we use them to pick up a cup of juice or kitten. Create story dances that incorporate these differences. “Let’s sit in our field and pick up the prettiest flowers we see!” “Let’s have a snack and eat one grape at a time—now let’s pick up as many grapes as we can and eat them all!”
- Carry — Carry a tray of cookies. Carry a huge boulder. Carry a stinky sock. There are so many ways we use our hands and fingers to carry various items and these ways can be integrated into ballet class. Have them walk around the Dancer’s Circle carrying a trophy they won in a dancing contest or a fishbowl with their favorite goldfish.
- Transform — Pretending the hands and fingers are something other than hands and fingers is an excellent way to refine body awareness. Consider things such as fireworks, smoke, wind, worms, butterflies, spaghetti, etc.
Finally, you can combine these ways to create super fun dances to do in class. Pick up your sunglasses, place them on your face, pick up your bag, place it on your shoulder, walk to the door, open the door, climb into the car, feel the wind blowing through the window (hands and fingers are the wind).
This area can be explored in so many ways. The trick is to get creative and help the dancers focus their attention towards their hands and fingers. Once they feel comfortable and demonstrate control over this skill they are ready to move on to learning about more technical concerns with the hands and fingers.