Anyone who analyses the political influence of hand motor skills cannot ignore the current American president. Middendorp: “He truly entertains with his body language. With his hands waving wildly, Trump suggests chaos, then with sharp downward-cutting movements he wants you to know that he will create order in this chaos. In fact, it seems like he is actually cutting knots with his hands. He also often uses a pricking index finger to make a point or to make an accusation towards someone, such as journalists. With his palms wide open, Trump often symbolises a line of defense against the evil he has appointed himself: “Hey, watch out, this is very scary and I’m going to stop this for you.”
The body language of the German Chancellor looks like Trump’s absolute counterpart. Middendorp: “She polishes her hand gestures and often puts her fingertips together in a diamond. In this way her hands are formed like a cage. I have used that in my choreography: a finger cage in which I catch people with film tricks. Merkel tries to underline the collective nature of her approach to problems with controlled, slow hand movements. She tries to keep everyone together with her hands: “We’re going to solve this together.” It looks hyper-aware, but also unapproachable. Especially when she is standing next to macho men, sometimes even a fist is shown. Yet, even then, the hand gesture looks like she’s crushing a sugar cube. It doesn’t get more aggressive than that.
According to Middendorp, French president Macron has a Mediterranean way of moving. “He is freer with his hands, often weaves them together to pull them loose again in a very elegant manner. It resembles his southern temperament. His hands show that at an emotional level something is really happening to him. At times, he uses his hands to underline each word with a new gesture. Furthermore, he is able to mimic the other party’s (hand) movements. His firm handshake with Trump, for instance, went viral two years ago. Macron held Trump in a wooden grip for a moment. You could clearly see the white knuckles emerging. There is something uncomfortable and dark about seeing world leaders playing each other and their supporters with sign language and gestures.”
You can read the whole articleon the website of De Volkskrant (in Dutch). HandsON was created in collaboration with the Dutch Dance Festival 2020.