Ballet of the Piano Hands
Watch a pianist’s hands. They seem to be performing a wordless ballet. It looks like they are conjuring up a magical being with crossing, fluttering fingers and hands. Sometimes the fingers stay on the keys, while at other times they take flight across the keyboard like a ballerina.
Each finger lands in the exact ¾ inch wide space that is a single piano key. Notice that the pianist’s whole body seems involved in the music. The arms, the torso, the head all seem connected to secret puppet strings moving in time.
The Whole Body Is Involved
At times the pianist hunches over, as if wanting to merge with the keyboard. Then, alternately, the torso rears back from the keys. It's like a woodsman needed a solid perch from which to drive a heavy blow. Then observe the eyes, involved in a flurry of micro-movements.
Playing the piano often involves having to look more than two places at the same time. Pianists solve this problem by looking out of the corner of their eye. They look incredibly quickly for one or two principal notes that must be observed for a split second or risk disaster.
Sometimes the hands cross over each other, or become entangled in the same area of the keyboard. Chopin is famous for places where the hands interlock. Many times, the two thumbs become involved in their own inner ballet, crossing and re-crossing, under and over. Each pianist works out subtleties of their own such as fingering changes. The pedals are another part, unseen and unheralded.
According to the great Vladimir Horowitz, “The pedals are the secret of the piano.” A great pianist uses them far more often than one would suspect. You can hear this effect used seamlessly, with perfect confidence and style on many pianist’s recordings, including Rubinstein and Horowitz. Take a field trip and visit You Tube to see the wonderful array of world-class artists playing the piano, many where you can watch their hands. Do a search there for "classical piano." All pianists seem to be speaking the same language, in their own way, with their hands.