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West Side Story (piano arrangements), the Taubman method and controversial wrist break

On my way home from the Bay area on Amtrak 712, I grabbed a few extra table napkins from the dining car, and let my imagination run wild as I scribbled some notes to myself. “Wild” should be emphasized since I had some pent up frustration related to the Taubman-Golandsky’s ban on the “wrist break.”

Dorothy Taubman was a Juilliard faculty piano teacher who embraced a certain approach to piano playing which has components of relaxation as well as forearm rotation. However, for some reason with all the nit picking that’s done about how this or that finger has to be aligned or rotated, the wrist is not supposed to move below the key surface or much above it. (That would be considered a “break.”) Correct me if I’m wrong.

An article excerpt by Renee Jackson about the Taubman and Alexander Technique is informative.

“Dorothy Taubman discovered other movements necessary to make playing easy and efficient when used in conjunction with forearm rotation. In and out motions (motion from the outside to the inside of the black keys and the fallboard) originate at the elbow and may be sensed from fingertip to shoulder. They make adjustments for the different finger lengths in human hands. These in and out adjustments prevent the hand from twisting away from its alignment with the arm. Slight lateral movements (known to students of the Taubman approach as walking arm and hand), and shaping (which is a function of the varying height of the forearm, and not just motion from the wrist) are also integral to the Taubman approach. Care must be taken that these movements do not replace the underlying forearm rotation. It should be pointed out that the wrist functions as a fulcrum, meaning that in order for these movements to arrive at the finger on the key, the wrist must be at a level which is sufficient to have the weight of the arm resting behind the finger, and not collapsed back towards the elbow or forearm.

Now I don’t mind the meticulousness of the Taubman method that’s championed by Edna Golandsky, BUT, from all my ingestion of ABRIDGED Taubman tapes on You Tube since I have to pay to be sent the whole kit and kaboodle on DVD, I cannot agree with this slant (pun intended) concerning the wrist.

Now here’s a pic straight from Irina Gorin’s teaching materials, which shows her “broken” wrist in living color!

Irena Orlov, a Master piano instructor at the Levine School of Music in Washington DC demonstrates how elastic the wrist should be, dipping down below the key bed and rising all the way above it, with quite a latitude of motion. (film, Reaching Beyond)

Like many fine pianists including Irina Morozova and other Russian schooled pianists, their wrists make the “break” up and down, as they produce a gorgeous singing tone with immaculate phrasing. (No casts or splints please!)

Enough said!!


Now I’ll move on to music that I love to play which evokes memories of my growing up in New York City. (Sorry if I break my wrist here and there)

The West Side Story that I adored was originally a Broadway production starring Carol Lawrence. And I couldn’t imagine it being transferred to the big screen until it happened. Natalie Wood (with a dubbed in voice), Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris and Rita Moreno starred in the movie version.

As mentioned in another blog, I used to walk from the IRT W. 66th Street station to my violin teacher’s apartment a few blocks away, and at that time the neighborhood was a pile of rubble, somewhat like the backdrop of the movie, West Side Story. There was no Lincoln Center complex as yet, so it was bare, broken bottles, and other debris, that followed along my walking path.

I can’t say I was an ardent fan of the movie, with the all the pastel hues, that for me distorted the street fighting turf, but the music was and always will be what carried the stage and movie version.

I love how Leonard Bernstein injected Latin rhythms into “America,” “I Feel Pretty,” and other selections. He was a genius in so many areas.

So for the past 24 hours, I’ve been uploading music that I will always love, starting with “America.” Stage actress Karen Olivo belts out the same, in a 2009 revival of the musical.

Karen Olivo bedazzles!

“One Hand, One Heart”

“I Feel Pretty”


Piano Technique Related Link: