Just Deux It: 5 Partnering Tips for Boys and Girls

Ballet technique is challenging enough when performed alone, but boasts an entirely different set of obstacles when joined by a partner.  Pas de deux, also known as partnering, is an art within an art; the ballerina and her male partner must work together to form a seamless bond.  Even the most successful on stage duos, however, have had their share of ups and downs.  Consider these five tips to help you and your partner navigate the art of partnering.

1. Communicate

    Relationship experts expound  the virtues of open communication for a reason, communication helps prevent misunderstandings and encourages both individuals to           build a positive dynamic.  Similarly, partnering requires time and attention in order to learn how the other person's body moves and responds  It doesn't matter if you're     the boy or the girl - talk to your partner.  If you're afraid or confused about how to execute a certain step, express your concerns.  Partners who learn to communicate           effectively in rehearsal will find greater success on stage.

2. Girls, build your core strength

    After nailing a shoulder sit on the first attempt, my new partner thanked me profusely.  "Some girls feel like a sack of potatoes!" He complained that his previous                   partner's lack of balance put strain on his back and made the lift unstable.  "I told her to pretend she was sitting on a park bench.  Feed the pigeons!  While his lively             anecdote was amusing at the time, his frustration echoes the sentiment of male partners everywhere.  Ladies! You cannot depend solely on your partner to stabilize a           lift; a strong core is vital in assisting your male partner as he lifts and moves you, and is greatly appreciated.  Remember, it is your partner's job to support you as you           execute a step, not to compensate for your lack of effort. 

3. Boys, gain the girl's trust

    Partnering can be intimidating, especially for teens.  These years of transition are incredibly awkward for non-dancers, let alone dancers who are working in such close       proximity to one another.  Girls, however, have the tendency to be especially anxious.  With lifts and moves that have them practically flying through the air, being               dropped on the floor is the female partner's number one fear.  Gentlemen! Gain your partner's trust by being kind and attentive, and avoiding needless fumbles.  Girls         can be strong, but they are still the fairer sex.  If a girl doesn't feel safe with her partner, the partnership will be built on a shaky foundation.

4. Girls, stay out of your partner's bubble

    We've all done it:  we did our best to expertly maneuver our knee during a finger turn, but then-wham! - we hit our partner in the gut or groin.  Sorry fellas.  While it's         true that accidents happen, and that some male partners fail to distance themselves enough from their partner, girls should work hard to fix habitually careless                     technique.  Likewise, boys should demonstrate care and propriety when handling their partner, avoiding excessively harsh gripping and never, ever, touch their partner     inappropriately.  Mutual respect of each other's personal space will help to create a more comfortable working environment.

5. Boys, be gracious

    One of the greatest choreographers of the 20th century was famously quoted as saying, "Ballet is woman."  Yes, the ballerina is typically considered the highlight of the       show, and this unfortunately has led some male dancers to believe that they are not as highly valued as their female partners.  Gentlemen-be gracious.  You are a                   support to your female partner, and contrary to the notion that you are invisible, the hard work and virtuosity of male dancers does not go unnoticed.  In fact, being             gracious is a two-way street; girls need to be careful that they don't develop a prima donna attitude, but instead show appreciation for their partner's hard work.  Boys         have the immense responsibility to care for their partner, and are under a lot of pressure when the curtain goes up to keep the choreography flowing.  Again, mutual             respect for each other's roles fosters a spirit of teamwork and trust, that when maintained, can forge a unique bond that lasts a lifetime.

About the Author

   Bethany Leger taught ballet for seven years in Dallas, Texas.  She is the founder of Ballet for Adults, a site dedicated to educating adults about ballet at