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What Makes A Dancer A Great Partner (Male&Female)

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I got into ballet seeing life magazine pictures of nureyev's leaps. But over the years I have come to appreciate the work it takes to be a good, if not great partner. I know in ballroom dancing it is almost unforgivable for a male to allow his partner to hit the floor. He is expected to at least try and break her fall, using his own body. Carlos Acosta has said the thing he fears most is to drop his ballerina. So he has done thousands of pushups to strengthen himself.

I also realize that a ballerina can make things easier for her partner if she does certain things, like push off to help with a lift.

Who are great partners of the past or present? What made/makes them great? Does it depends on their early training and makeup? Marcelo Gomes, who I consider a great partner, said to me he really cares for and enjoys the partnering aspect of his dancing.

my other choices of great male partners are:

Ivan Nagy

Anthony Dowell

Carlos Acosta

Jose Manuel Carreno

Julio Bocca (esp. over the last 5 years)

Angel Corella

Kobberg

Richard Cragun(dancer with the stuggart ballet in the 1970's)

If anyone can enlighten me on the female side, please do!!! :wink::wink:

Edited by Ari

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The king of partnering now (but not for long) is Jock Soto. Peter Martins was a superb partner...tall, strong, big hands, reassuring.

As for females, it is less clear what makes a ballerina a great partner...I suppose being light-weight and flexible and having your own strength so that if the man falters slightly you are not in danger. And of course, trust...if the ballerina looks nervous or insecure, the man can get jittery or over-solicitous and spoil the flow of things. Also, if there is a minor glitch, the ballerina should never show by her facial expression that anything is amiss...she can slap the guy silly once they get offstage, but onstage she should look cool & serene all the time. On these terms, Wendy Whelan would be the ideal partner today.

One ballerina, now retired, was quite unrestrained in her expressions when the partner made small mistakes, or what she felt were mistakes. Ironically, at her farewell, she danced a signature role with a partner she had seldom (if ever) danced with and the harmony was amazing.

Lots of rehearsing and lots of working together build a great partnership, though even that is no guarantee that all will go well onstage. When you think about it, partnering glitches and people falling are far less frequent in this high-risk occupation than the percentages might indicate. And the art of covering up mistakes is part of what makes a dancer great.

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 I also realize that a ballerina can make things easier for her partner if she does certain things, like push off to help with a lift.

            Who are great partners of the past or present?  If anyone can enlighten me on the female side, please do!!! :wink:  :wink:

I've read in long ago interviews with a couple of her partners that said that one ballerina that was not easy to partner was Markova. She was very reluctant to give that little "push off" keeping the illusion for herself of weighlessness.

I agree that Cragun, Nagy, Soto, Nureyev, and Bocca are some guys I've seen that have tremendous partnering skills

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            I also realize that a ballerina can make things easier for her partner if she does certain things, like push off to help with a lift.

            Who are great partners of the past or present?   If anyone can enlighten me on the female side, please do!!! :wink:  :wink:

I've read in long ago interviews with a couple of her partners that said that one ballerina that was not easy to partner was Markova. She was very reluctant to give that little "push off" keeping the illusion for herself of weighlessness.

I agree that Cragun, Nagy, Soto, Nureyev, and Bocca are some guys I've seen that have tremendous partnering skills

Oh, take it for what it's worth but Gelsey Kirkland, in Walking on My Grave, complains bitterly on partnering by Baryshnikov but has nothing but praise for D'Amboise, Nagy, and Dowell

Richard

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Who are great partners of the past or present?  What made/makes  them great?

In a PBS program on American Ballet Theatre several years ago, Susan Jaffe praises her longtime partner Jose Carreno for his confidence and says that it helps her dance better. I can't remember her exact words, but she says something to the effect of "it makes a tremendous difference to me to have a partner who lacks nerves."

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Who are great partners of the past or present?  What made/makes  them great? 

In a PBS program on American Ballet Theatre several years ago, Susan Jaffe praises her longtime partner Jose Carreno for his confidence and says that it helps her dance better. I can't remember her exact words, but she says something to the effect of "it makes a tremendous difference to me to have a partner who lacks nerves."

On the same program, which has been released on DVD as ABT Variety and Virtuosity, Ferri says of Bocca, I need a partner that can look me straight in the eye. She says with Bocca, "we hardly have to talk, we hardly even have to rehearse..it's like when you find the love of your life" Bocca agrees and says "it's hard to explain"

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Two qualities a male dancer needs to be a great partner are physical strength and attentiveness towards his partner. He has to be willing to divert his mind from his own performance and concentrate on making his partner's look better. Some of this can be taught, but it helps if the dancer really enjoys what he's doing.

Physical strength is, of course, something that can be built up. The young Peter Martins learned this the hard way, according to his autobiography, when his partner at the Royal Danish Ballet sniped at him until he started going to the gym.

One legendary partner of the past was NYCB principal Conrad Ludlow. Balanchine was able to make some of his most physically daring choreography for ballerinas (for instance, the second movement of Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet) because he had Ludlow there to protect them. He was in great demand by non-NYCB ballerinas on the concert circuit.

I never saw him, but I've never forgotten what Arlene Croce once wrote about Nicholas Magallanes: "He could show off a ballerina like black velvet under a diamond."

In a ballerina, I think the most important attribute of being a good partner is reliability. A dancer can't be 100% predictable, of course, since each performance comes out differently depending on the music and other circumstances, but there's nothing more dismaying for a man than to see his ballerina doing something he hadn't expected. Certain ballerinas have been notorious for this -- but that also helped make them exciting to watch.

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I got into ballet seeing life magazine pictures of nureyev's leaps.  But over the years I have come to appreciate the work it takes to be a good, if not great partner.  I know in ballroom dancing it is almost unforgivable for a male to allow his partner to hit the floor.  He is expected to at least try and break her fall, using his own body.  Carlos Acosta has said the thing he fears most is to drop his ballerina. So he has done thousands of pushups to strengthen himself.

            I also realize that a ballerina can make things easier for her partner if she does certain things, like push off to help with a lift.

            Who are great partners of the past or present?  What made/makes  them great?  Does it depends on their early training and makeup?  Marcelo Gomes, who I consider a great partner, said to me he really cares for and enjoys the partnering aspect of his dancing.

   

                my other choices of great male partners are:

              Ivan Nagy

              Anthony Dowell

              Carlos Acosta

              Jose Manuel Carreno

              Julio Bocca (esp. over the last 5 years)

              Angel Corella

              Kobberg

              Richard Cragun(dancer with the stuggart ballet in the 1970's)

           

  If anyone can enlighten me on the female side, please do!!! :wink:  :wink:

http://www.kirov.com/hstories/lezhnina/hilezhnina1.html

interesting that Lezhnina points out that Farukh Ruzimatov was a poor partner.

-goro-

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What a good topic!

I second the nominations of Nicholas Magallanes, Jacques D'Amboise, and Conrad Ludlow, all of whom I often had the pleasure of seeing dance. From those eras, let me add Igor Youskevitch, Andre Eglevsky, Royes Fernandez, Erik Bruhn, John Kriza, and Edward Villella!

Some of today's great partners are Cyril Pierre (Bayerisches Staatsballett, Munich), Thomas Edur (English National Ballet), Jose Martinez (Paris Opera Ballet)and Maxim Beloserkovsky(American Ballet Theater). That they dance primarily with their wives is no doubt what makes them great. When I'm watching Lacarra, I have to remind myself to take my eyes off her in order to see what Cyril Pierre is doing! He gladly takes a back seat to her, which helps him to be her perfect partner -- he sees his job as making it look like her dancing is sheer, effortless perfection.

Thomas Edur adores his wife Agnes Oaks to the same extent. Their pas de deux are works of art. Edur has a way of presenting Oaks that is exquisite -- they are a single entity that moves as one. Yet, as the observer in the audience, my eyes are focused only on her. Oaks takes to the air around her with the facility of a gliding, soaring bird. It is her husband/partner who makes this possible.

Martinez, tall, thin, and elegant like his wife, Agnes Letestu, is one of the finest dancers in the world today, as is she. Together, they are a formidable partnership, unmatched in musicality, classicism, and line. Their coupled poetry is sharp and precise, contrasting with the Edur/Oaks soft, emotional lyricism, and the Pierre/Lacarra acrobatic and sometimes intensely personal partnership.

Maxim Beloserkovsy and his wife Irina Dvorovenko are the golden couple of married partners -- they are both physically gorgeous -- striking, stunning examples of human beauty. Superbly trained, they execute steps with impeccable mastery. They relate to each other as if they are in love, which, of course, they are. Maxim lets his wife get the glory while he works just as hard behind her. They exhibit such a well-honed harmony, gained in their many years of dancing together, without making it ever seem phoned-in. I get a sense, each time I watch them, that they are excited to be dancing and showing their joy of working together again -- every performance is so fresh!

It's to the credit of these husbands/partners that they dance as if they were the ones being watched -- giving each performance all of their technique and artistry -- all the while knowing it is their ballerina wives the audience is watching. If they were any less perfect in the execution of their roles, we would see them MORE, as we always notice when someone is not up to snuff and divert our attention to them to see if we can find more to criticize.

As with ballet in general, the trick is to make it look easy. When we have flawless male dancers and we still watch only their partners, that is one indication of their greatness as a partner.

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Ludlow is the partner I wish I had seen live, from the way he partnered Allegra Kent in a recorded version of Symphony in C, Second Movement, presenting her like a jewel.

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Helene,

Conrad Ludlow was a true noble cavalier. He was not a particularly gifted male soloist and would never be considered in the same category of technique or artistry as his contemporaries d'Amboise or Villella.

As a partner, however, he was unsurpassed at the time.

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I think it's Joe Mazo who wrote that if you fell out of a third floor window, you'd be praying that Connie Ludlow was walking beneath, to catch you.

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In Meredith Daneman's new biography of Margot Fonteyn, she says that towards the end of her life Fonteyn was asked by Ninette de Valois who, of all her partners, had been the best. She replied -- to de Valois's astonishment -- Robert Helpmann: "None of the others were ever like him." She said that while Nureyev brought her out, he wasn't so comfortable as a partner. de Valois then posed the same question to Alicia Markova (whose own partnership with Anton Dolin was legendary), who also replied, "Helpmann." So he was obviously a better partner than he's been given credit for.

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In Meredith Daneman's new biography of Margot Fonteyn, she says that towards the end of her life Fonteyn was asked by Ninette de Valois who, of all her partners, had been the best.  She replied -- to de Valois's astonishment -- Robert Helpmann:  "None of the others were ever like him."  She said that while Nureyev brought her out, he wasn't so comfortable as a partner.  de Valois then posed the same question to Alicia Markova (whose own partnership with Anton Dolin was legendary), who also replied, "Helpmann."  So he was obviously a better partner than he's been given credit for.

You beat me to it. :D

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In her autobiography, Darcy Bussel praises Jonathan Cope very much as a partner. She points out that a partner has to be not only physically but also emotionally well suited to you, which Cope apparently was. She disliked working with partners who let their own nerves show and needed someone to reassure her, at least in her younger years. Maybe she feels differently now.

I think she makes a good point and I would imagine that dancers who are well matched in temparament are more likely to wok well together than those who are physically suitable to each other but not emotionally.

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Reading all these description of NYCB's Conrad Ludlow I can't help but think of NYCB current James Fayette. Like Ludlow I doubt that technically speaking we will ever see Fayette dance Rubies, Theme and Variations or Oberon but like Ludlow, Fayette has this wonderful ability to showcase his ballerinas to glorious effect. I think another important aspect that makes a great partner is the sense of protectiveness. A ballerina must know her partner is completely there for her. Something I think Fayette excels at. Ballets like Concerto Barocco, Emeralds, the Elegie or Valse Melancolique sections of Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3, and Serenade, the cavalier in A Midsummer Night's Dream to just name a few Fayette gives the audience a feeling that the ballerina is not only the loveliness creature he has ever seen, but is totally in safe hands. Something I think all the ballerinas at NYCB must feel when they dance with him. I think that has a lot to do not just with his technical skill but also his physical strength - it's safe to say that he is, physically speaking, the strongest male in the company. There is something very wonderfully at seeing a powerfully strong man being very attentive and gentle to a delicate looking women. I would love to see him dance Afternoon of a Faun or Duo Concertant.

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Having seen both Conrad Ludlow and James Fayette many times, I think the comparison by GeorgeB fan is right on the money.

When longer hair for men became acceptable, it proved a boon for Ludlow who was able to cover what my wife called his "sticky-outy ears."

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What a wonderful description, GeorgeB fan. And Farrrell Fan, thanks for the laugh. I've only seen Fayette dance perhaps half a dozen times, but I'll add one thing, something I guess you've said at greater length. He very much looks like the gentleman.

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Yes, GeorgeB fan, you are so right about James Fayette...I especially like him in SERENADE where at one point he must catch the various corps girls who come hurtling towards him. He does so with a sort of other-worldly gleam in his eyes. His hands are big, and he is strong and charismatic. While very different from Jock Soto, I see Fayette succeeding Jock in many roles and bringing a different and sort of "all-American" feel as opposed to Jock's exotic look.

Albert Evans is also a superb partner, in my estimation.

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One wonderful partner who hasn't been mentioned yet is Joseph Duell. His physical strength and modest personality, and apparent fascination with what his partner was doing, made him the ideal cavalier. And his height was an added blessing. I miss him, as a dancer as well as partner.

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BALLERINAS HATE IT WHEN HTE PARTNERS HAVE SWEATY HANDS....

or hands like meat-hooks.

Nerves!!!!!! It can be hard for the audience to see, often, but some very attractive male dancers have been nerve-wracking to the ballerinas....

not going to name any names.

On the other hand, the dancer who can really tune in, stay calm, and help just enough--

in San Francisco, that's Damian Smith -- himself a very strong technician, and a very musical dancer, he is more than reliable, by all accounts, they love to dance with him...

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How about Edward Villela? I never saw him dance live. How was his partnering skills? My hunch was that he was pretty good

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One wonderful partner who hasn't been mentioned yet is Joseph Duell.  His physical strength and modest personality, and apparent fascination with what his partner was doing, made him the ideal cavalier.  And his height was an added blessing.  I miss him, as a dancer as well as partner.

Joseph Duell was the only male dancer I've ever seen live who had Jacques d'Amboise's uncanny ability to make the audience see not only his partner but also the entire stage action through his eyes, not just seeing him focus on his partner or other members of the cast. I was struck by this particularly during the last scene of the revival of Firebird in the mid-80's, and was astonished that such a humble, self-effacing dancer could command such authority.

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And then, there are the men who are NOT particularly good partners. I came across this exchange between Larissa Lezhnina and Marc Haegeman in a DanceViewTimes interview linked on another thread.

MH: Who was your favorite partner? I've put a key phrase in boldface. Lezhnina: That's very hard to say. I must say that Ruzimatov wasn't the best partner. Still he did something. [laughing] Almost everyone in the ballet world knows that he's not a good partner.

MH: Why not?

Lezhnina: Because Ruzimatov is a natural dancer, but not a natural partner. It's not easy to explain. Partnering should be natural. He just doesn't feel where a partner should be.

Conversely, I suppose a good partner DOES feel where his partner should be (which I take to men: where she is, where she needs to go, what she should look like during the transition).

You read, in reviews of school performances by School of American Ballet, for example, of certain young men already having very advanced partnering skills. Is this, as Lezhnina seems to think and many of us assume, a natural gift that you either have or don't have? Is it possible to develop partnering excellence via training and experience?

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I think Vladimir Vasiliev must be mentioned as a great partner. You see film of him dancing with his wife Maximova, Bessmertnova and even Plisetskaya. He is so attentive and sensitive to his ballerina's needs without compromising any of his virility, showing his partner off to her best advantage and possessing tremendous physical strength.

Another great Russian partner had to be Yuri Soloviev. Kolpakova was devastated when he died and I'm sure she wasn't the only Kirov ballerina who found him impossible to replace.

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