The Power of the Hand

There is one expressive tool that is often undervalued by performers: the hand. Sure, we spend countless hours focusing on hand positioning with regards to equipment, yet we rarely address the significance of expression and nuance through the hands/fingertips.

Often, the focus of rehearsal seems to be the “big-ticket” items such as body and equipment. I’m not discounting the importance of this focus; however, when looking to maximize expressive qualities, your hands are definitely your friend!

In all ways, consider what your hands are doing from one moment to the next in relation to what the body and equipment are doing.

Try this exercise: Seated where you are, and without looking at your hand, do the following actions:

  • Reach your hand out in the dark
  • Salute in military fashion
  • Caress the head of an infant
  • Kill a pestering gnat
  • Create a lethal weapon
  • Create a decorative model of elegance
  • Reprimand a wrongdoing

As you carried out this simple exercise, you most likely noticed the extremes of expression that are very recognizable and powerful. Your audience instinctually understands communication when the hand is poised to express beauty, inflict harm or any range between these polar opposites.

Consider the performer whose show persona is one of tenderness and beauty. It would seem appropriate that the hands reflect a soft quality in expression similar to the caress of an infant’s head or the model of elegance. In contrast, the killing of a gnat or creating a lethal weapon would be anything but appropriate in this type of show. Yet, oftentimes, when performers are unaware of their hands, the latter becomes a reality.

As you see, the power of the hand moves far beyond the body and equipment to reflect and confirm the character of your show.

About the Author

Chris Casteel has been involved in the color guard activity for the past 20 years. She is currently an adjudicator for Drum Corps International, Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association and the Winter Guard Association of Southern California (WGASC); she travels to many other circuits throughout the United States as a guest adjudicator. For the past four years, she has held the position of education coordinator for the WGASC. She has a master’s degree in education and currently teaches middle school language arts.

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