There are a few schools of hand-dance, such as the classical Indian style laid down in the Natya-Shastra, the style descended from the Lindy hop, and then there is my own style.
The Natya-Shastra is a book probably written before the third century BCE by the sage Bharata Muni. The title means something akin to "The Science/Art of Dance, Drama and Music". The book takes its base from the Four Vedas and expands from there. On the subject of dance, the book contains movements for all parts of the body, but it is calculated as having 4 000 mudras, or symbolic hand gestures. The mudras can tell detailed stories to those who know the gestures.
The mudras are also used in yoga as a meditation device. The theory states that the fingers are connections to the chakras and different poses can form varied vibrations.
An example of a mudra is the symbol of wisdom, made by touching the thumb to the forefinger and holding the palm at a graceful slant. This represents the individual's soul (forefinger) combining with the supreme soul (thumb). The same symbol held in different positions can have different meanings.
The dance itself is sometimes considered a form of yoga, as the the fine aesthetics serve to eliminate distractions.
The Lindy hop kind of hand-dance is a kind of swing dance. It was originally conceived by an African-American dancer in the big band era called Shorty Snowden. The Philly Bop, Norfolk Swing and Chicago Steppin' are all forms of the dance.
The dance had its peak in the 1950s and 60s.
I really have no idea why it is called a hand-dance because the emphasis is not on the hands, apart from the fact that one is holding hands with the partner.
I can't seem to find much information on the dance itself.
Anyways, onto the dance which I can tell you the most about, but probably won't: my own personal hand-dance. The dance came naturally to me somewhere around the beginning of this year. I allowed my hands to move by themselves, and curiously, they did. My fingers moved stiffly, forming strange combinations, something like a stereotypical idea of a wizard casting a spell. The hands moved smoothly. Sometimes I made the hand movements longer, drawn around the whole body, creating an effect something like a practitioner of Tai Chi achieves when moving slowly.
This formed the basis for my dancing.
Hendo from Pilgrum told me that when they performed at my school, at times more people were looking at my hands than at the band. Personally, I don't think I got more than twenty/thirty people at a time looking.
More recently I've used a little more pantomime, and I also used some preconceived moves instead of the mush of circles and waves from my unconscious. Favourites include "Paint fence," "Wax on, wax off," and of course as any hip-hop fan knows "Bounce your hands like a lowrider".
The other night, a boy asked me "How do you get your hands to move like that?" I told him, "It just comes naturally. Close your eyes and let your hands move." He tried it for a few seconds, and I could see a style developing. Then I guess he just worried too much and stopped.