The Heroic Handstand
Training handstands is a great way to build strength as well as develop body coordination and awareness. Although there are many different types of handstands, I’m going to talk about the ‘straight’ handstand which I consider the most important when starting out in handstand training/hand balancing.
The head position in a handstand plays an important role in affecting the handstand shape. The spine will follow the head, so we need to encourage dancers to look through their arms as opposed to at the floor. This will allow the spine to stay straight. Should the dancers look at the floor, the spine will follow and create a curved handstand (not wrong, just a different sort of handstand). Working from the hands,
dancers should keep fingers spread and slightly bent, allowing for the greatest control and stability. The hands should be facing forward, with straight arms shoulder width apart.The shoulders should be extended and engaged giving the handstand greater control. This can often be a little difficult for dancers new to handstands to grasp. Asking them to think about shrugging the shoulders or pushing the floor away from them should help. A straight handstand is achieved by engaging the core which will keep the body in alignment. Work to keep the legs straight and together with stretched feet and pointed toes.
When beginning to train for a strong handstand, dancers can start by using the help of a wall. By placing hands on the floor and walking the feet up the wall, dancers can work to keep a straight body position by looking at the wall, stacking the shoulders over the wrists and hips over the shoulders. The next progression would be to get dancers to begin kicking up to the wall with the legs and feet meeting at the top without slamming into the wall. Eventually, we want dancers to work away from the wall and gain confidence kicking up with the right amount of force into a free-standing handstand without over balancing.
When beginning to practice free-standing handstands as well as more advanced hand balancing skills, dancers should stand ready with proper posture and one foot stretched in tendu. The arms should reach forward at shoulder height. Whilst leaning forward into a lunge and keeping the back leg straight, dancers should use a little force to kick up, getting the legs together as soon as possible.
To fall out safely from an over balanced handstand, dancers should either 1) handstand to forward roll by tucking the chin to the chest, bending the arms slowly and rolling through a curved upper back or 2) handstand pirouette by turning the body 90 degrees out of danger and bringing the legs to the floor one at a time like the landing of a cartwheel.