Square Dance Nebraska - Ideas
The types of handholds are: traditional (boys
palms up - girls palms down) hold, right palm up - left palm down
(for everyone) hold, handshake type hold, forearm hold, (right or
left hand) star hold and Thar Star hold (crossed palms up in
ocean waves will also be discussed in class). Except for the star
holds (see below), handholds should never be gripping. Any
pressure should simply be a balancing point between the two
dancers. You should strive to provide that balance without
gripping too tight or being a "dead fish." It will take
some practice but, as everything else, it will become second
BOYS PALMS UP/GIRLS PALMS DOWN: This is the traditional type of handhold used when holding hands with your partner or all have hands joined as in a Circle, when all dancers are in a normal arrangement (boy, girl, boy, girl). Men extend their hand(s) at waist level with palm(s) up. The ladies place their hand(s) in the man's palm down. Men should refrain from putting their thumbs on top as many men don't know their own strength and are soon pulling the woman around by a knuckle joint. This is also the type of handhold used in a Courtesy Turn except hands are held higher than normal.
RIGHT PALM UP/LEFT PALM DOWN: This is the newest type of handhold used when holding hands with partners, in lines and circles - especially when the arrangement is not normal (boy, boy, girl, girl). Follow the same rules for this hand hold as Boys Palms Up/Girls Palms Down, above.
HANDSHAKE: This is the type of handhold used in Right & Left Grand and the beginning of Right & Left Thru. This is where the men can really forget their own strength. Rings on the fingers will cause excruciating pain if squeezed too tight. Women should remind men when they are gripping too hard and as a last resort a loud "OUCH" will definitely cure the problem.
FOREARM: This is the hold used in Allemande Left and Turn Thrus. Hands should be placed between the wrist and the elbow, slightly turned to the bottom of the arm. Thumbs should be kept next to fingers to avoid squeezing. A word of warning: If someone squeezes you too hard on an arm turn, DON'T SQUEEZE BACK! You will only hurt yourself more. Try the "Ouch" method for a quick release.
STAR: This type of hold is not really a hold at all. Hand should be raised to shoulder height with palm facing away from you. Put the side of your hand into the middle to meet with other hands. You may slightly rest your hand on the hand of the person in front of you.
THAR STAR: Thars are similar to stars, with two exceptions: Dancers in a Thar back-up and the hand holds is different. Dancers in the center (who are backing up) place their hand over the wrist of the dancer in front of them, to help maintain even spacing. Dancers on the outside (who are moving forward) hold the inside dancers by the forearm (see Forearm above). The outside dancers set the "speed" the star turns and help control the spacing of the centers.
Practice these handholds with your partner. It only takes a few minutes and you will get a better feel for what you should be doing with other dancers.
The one major rules is that THERE IS NO HANDHOLD THAT REQUIRES THE MEN TO GRIP THE LADIES FINGERS. This is true especially when you are "turning the ladies under" after a promenade or swing. Men need to simply raise their arm and cup their hand, providing stability for the women -- after all, the women are really doing the work! There is no need to "crank them around" as you can twist a shoulder by doing that.