Video: Italian Hand Speak

Inspired by Sara Rosso’s video of Italians dancing with their hands, I took my Flip HD out to Milan’s Piazza Duomo to capture a bit of hand jive for practice.

A couple of random observations: most of the pairs, for as much as they vary in age, sex, etc., have one person doing the talking and the gesticulating. Non-Italians often think everyone here flails with their arms as they speak, but as you can see, the movements are more like punctuation: concise, controlled, specific.

My favorite is probably the guy near the metro stairs who “draws” elaborate figures while entertaining his friend. This guy really did quite a dance around with his arms and was hypnotizing to watch.

This was a lot harder to shoot than I would’ve thought: even in Milan where you can easily stumble out for a cappuccino find yourself in a fashion shoot, a movie set or someone’s holiday snaps, people are aware you’re filming them. (Sara turned her camera on some relatives for those great close-ups).

I’d like to shoot a companion version in Southern Italy for contrast — next time I’m closer to the Boot heel I will — but I expect that there it’ll be even more challenging to get close enough with such a small camera.

9 thoughts on “Video: Italian Hand Speak

  1. this video definitely made me smile. Thanks for posting! I’m sure it is hard to try and capture that…I’m always nervous with any camera and people I don’t know unless I’m hidden or far enough away.

  2. Mmm, I’m Italian and it seems quite normal to me. I’ve got to admit that is pretty funny if you watch it with this “ethological” look!
    I’m just wandering what you guys do while speaking with someone on the street… Do you just stand still with the arms down listening at the voice??
    Well, this is weird! 😀

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  4. Great video! I agree, we do like that. Once a young French boy was listening to my father “speaking” and told his father:”He looks like a washing machine…!”
    There is a joke:
    “How two Italians can cross the ocean?”
    “Put them in the water and let them have a conversation!”.
    For many of our politicians is different: they try to achieve with their arms and hands what they connot with their brains! Enjoy!

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