5 Common Mistakes Ballet Dancers Make with Their Hands

hands and feet

“Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you are willing to practice, you can do.”- Bob Ross

When a dancer is first beginning on their ballet journey the hands can sometimes be forgotten. It is common for those new to ballet to focus on the lower body and feet. A dancer must remember that ballet is all about movements that flow together – from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes. Every movement in ballet has a purpose and it needs to be precise.


The most common issues we see with a dancer’s hands include:

    1. Pinched fingers
    2. Broken wrists
    3. Crab hands
    4. Flat hands
    5. Stuck out thumbs

Our instructors at Alberta Ballet School work with each student to ensure that they not only focus on their feet – but their hands as well.

We provide these tips for dancers struggling with hand placement.

    1. Pinched Fingers

It is important to allow your body to flow through movements when ballet dancing. Some dancers have the tendency to pinch their fingers to your thumb to avoid sticking their fingers out – this can look awkward.

Focus on allowing the movement to run down the arm and out the fingertips instead. This will ensure lengthening comes from the core and involves your entire body and keep you from slipping back into a habit of pinching your fingers together.

    1. Broken Wrists

One of the most common mistakes that a dancer can make with their hands is having “broken wrists”. Dancers tend to focus on ensuring lengthening comes from the core. When doing this, the hands are left to droop.

Focus on imagining that your fingers are reaching out towards an invisible horizon line, this will make it easier to ensure you maintain a nice line from your arm to your fingertip.

    1. Crab Hands

Some ballet dancers stiffen their hands without noticing when dancing. While not uncommon, freezing or locking up your joints is something that should be avoided as it can cause a dancer’s hands to appear more like claws. As a dancer, you may like to have more space between their fingers, but your hands should never be stiff.

We find even the gentle reminder of crab hands is beneficial for shaking out the rigidness, Focus on reminding yourself to soften your thumbs – some dancers even practice with tape on their thumbs to help unlearn the crab-like muscle memory.

    1. Flat Hands

Thinking too much about your crab hands can lead to flat hands. Like many things in ballet, it is always a balance. Alberta Ballet School knows it is quite common for those with the tendency to stick their thumbs out to overcompensate when they are trying to correct themselves by flattening their hands altogether.

Remind yourself to not focus so much on your hands that you become distracted by them. Keep practicing – especially in front of a mirror so you can see exactly what your hands might be doing.

    1. Thumbs Up

This mistake is similar to “crab hands”. Dancers struggling with “thumbs up” stick out thumbs so that they appear like spiky, straight digits – sometimes we see this traveling over into all fingers as well. A protruding thumb shortens the line of the arm and detracts from the smooth shapes of each ballet position.

The most important step is to replace the bad habit with a good one. Focus on lengthening and elongating your movements, top to bottom.

Every mistake can be corrected with time, practice, and the right instruction. Take time to practice in front of a mirror and you will be able to replace a bad habit, with a good one in no time.

If you are looking for ballet classes that can help you focus on achieving the best techniques in Calgary or ballet classes in Edmonton, check out Alberta Ballet School for information on registration.