Hands are powerful. They can hurt or heal. They can help, they can cause damage. They can show sensitivity or hardness. They tell us so much about who we are. They are incredibly important in the dance world. So … something must have been in the air at the studio as my lesson tonight had a strong element of discussing hands and my most recent lesson with Teach 2 had an emphasis on hands — and they were talking about different uses of the hands. Let me start with Teach 2 and finish with tonight’s adventure.
As you guys know, Teach 2 has been focusing on teaching me International style. Well, last lesson we began quickstep — which I have to say is kinda fun, but I still stick to my guns that International Foxtrot is the hardest dance. I don’t know why it feels that way to me, but it just does. That contra-body movement and long steps and turning while maintaining ye old frame is just incredibly difficult to me. I think the last couple of weeks my eyes have been opened to the next level of what my dancing should be and … whoa. But, I digress. Somehow, Teach 2 got on to instructing me about hands — especially tension in the hands. He said I needed to have tension in my hands and fluidity in my arms. I know it sounds weird, but it makes sense when he explains it. He showed me how having strong hands with arm styling actually frees the arms to do what they need to do while making the movement appear purposeful, graceful and strong. So, I’ve been practicing at home. I’m kinda glad I live alone as I’m sure if I had a roommate they would think I’m crazy. 🙂 That night I had a lesson with Teach 1 and we focused on my showcase routine — which is coming up in 2 weeks. (yikes! already?) So, he decides to record it so he can critique it. Well, that night at home I watched it a couple of times … and oh. my. goodness. I have so much to work on in my dancing. But, I noticed my hands. They were not strong all the time when styling and looked odd and curled up at times.
“The body cannot lie. You cannot be somebody else onstage, no matter how good of an actor or dancer or singer you are. When you open your arms, move your finger, the audience knows who you are, you know.”
Did you read that? “Move your finger?” Teach 2 keeps emphasizing that my energy must extend all the way thru to the tips of my fingers.
Flash forward to tonight’s lesson. I walked in and Teach 1 calls out for me to put on my smooth shoes. So, we meet on the floor and he says, “We are starting a new era in your dancing tonight.” My mind is racing … uh-oh, what does that mean? I say, “The era of pain?” Dry chuckle. He says, “All of our dancing is under the cloud of pain, but this era is a new one for us.” I laughed and said, “Life is pain, highness.” (which is a reference to “The Princess Bride” which we joke about at times.) Of course, he says, “Dancing is painful because you are pushed out of your comfort level all the time.” True. But apparently my new era of dancing is just taking everything to a new level for competition. He mentioned the next comp he wants to go to and said we were going to start preparing for it — taking it to the silver level now. Plus, a couple of days after our showcase I’m having two lessons with a visiting coach, Valentina (she is Jonathan Roberts’ dance partner), and she will be focusing on smooth technique. I’m sure I’ll have a post to share after that happens.
So, the whole lesson basically focused on my frame. Now, one would think that by now I would have some sense of a correct frame. Wrong. So wrong. When Teach started to break down for me what it should ACTUALLY be and what most students do, I just looked at him. Yowsa! There is so much to work on … We went back and forth from closed hold to promenade over and over. There are about 25 things that have to all work together to make this a good connection.
The lesson seemed to fly by even though it was almost all about that frame. Usually doing the same thing over and over drives me crazy, but this did not happen tonight. I felt myself being pushed much further than I thought I could go and it was freaking cool! But, there was a moment when we stopped to speak of hands. It was the connection of hands in the frame. He talked about how important the hands are in the frame. That the hands were protecting the frame by keeping the shoulders where they needed to be. That feeling your partner is so important thru the hands. We talked about exactly where your thumb goes in the hand hold and how there are different schools of thought — the traditional style and modern style. The placement of my left hand on his arm and how where I place it can create the most dynamic, extended frame as long as I can hold up my part of it. He made me look in the mirrors that I used to loathe surrounding us and see my frame. He kept saying, “Look, look. See, this is correct. This is what you are able to do. This must become the new normal!”
Towards the end of my lesson Teach says, “Well, now that I’ve seen what your frame can be, I don’t see why smooth should be your weaker program. We need to spend a lot more time on it now. Ok?” He also said earlier, “You are dancing different now. Can you feel it? I feel like I dancing with a different person. You dancing lighter.” I did feel different. I can’t put my finger on it, but it was different. I’m excited to be moving forward with my dancing — no doubt. (I will most likely be sore tomorrow.)
At the end of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, the character of Puck, or Robin Goodfellow, delivers a great last monologue to the audience. He asks them to forgive any flaws/offenses in their “play” and to “give me your hands if we be friends.” It’s a speech that performers feel connected to — asking the audience to overlook their foibles and please give them some applause showing that they appreciated their work. It’s amazing the power we hold in our hands.