Have you given any thought to what you want to get out of your flamenco experience this year? If it has to do with making your hands look better, read on, for today I'll tell you about two common mistakes I see with flamenco hand movements and how to fix them. I'll also show you a video of Mercedes Ruíz, our teacher on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez, demonstrating how to move the hands correctly.
Sometimes we get so focused on learning the steps that we neglect details like hand movements. “I’ll get to it later,” we say. We may think we don't have time, that it’s not that important, or find it boring.
But practicing 'manos' is a must for every flamenco dancer
The good news is that there is not one right way to move the hands. Like other stylistic elements of flamenco dance, there is plenty of room for individuality in this area. Watch a few video clips of different professional dancers, and you'll see how personal hand and finger movements tend to be. Matilde Coral reminds her students to make their hands look like doves, Mercedes reminds us to open and use every finger.
While there may not be one right way to move the hands, there are wrong ways ...
Here are two of the most common mistakes I see and how to correct them:
1. Moving the arm with the hand
For example, the hand rotates out, and the elbow drops with it. This is normal for beginning dancers. One must learn to isolate the hand movements from the arm movements, and this takes some getting used to.
When we move our hands in flamenco we're really rotating the wrists. As long as you maintain correct arm (namely elbow) positioning you can't go wrong. Remember in flamenco, we must always be aware of the position of our elbows. Practice moving your hands by engaging the muscles in your forearms and see how it's possible to move your hands without using your elbows or upper arms.
2. Dead hands
The hands stop in an awkward or ugly position. Normally the dancer is unaware of this. It may happen when she is executing a difficult step. She is so concentrated on the intricacies of the footwork that she doesn't pay attention to what her hands are doing.
This one's easy, practice! The more time you dedicate to hand technique the less likely you are are to get "dead hands." You see, as you continue to practice moving your hands, the fluid movements you want become second nature. When something complicated is going on with the feet the hands know what to do without you having to tell them.
Don't let these problems become chronic
Set aside time to practice hand technique.
Explore, look for shapes and movements that you like, develop the flexibility and muscle strength necessary to rotate your hands fully, and practice separating this movement from the movement of the arms.
Not sure where to begin?
Try this activity to strengthen and improve your hand movements.
While we want to allow for personal expression in how we move our hands and fingers in flamenco, we must learn to:
1. Isolate the hands from the arms. In other words, move the hands at the wrists.
2. Remain conscious of what the hands are doing even (especially) during difficult steps.
Now watch this close up of Mercedes Ruíz explaining flamenco manos. The video is set to start where the hand exercise begins:
Before you go,
Whose hand movements do you love? Watch some dancers on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, or here. Find a clip of someone with hand movements you like, and share it in the comments below.
Want to learn to move your hands like Mercedes?
Join me for the Flamenco Tour to Jerez. Mercedes doesn't mess around when it comes to the hands, and you can tell by watching her dance. We work on manos and upper body technique every day in her class, and it's one of my favorite parts. Let's go!