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Partnering skillsWhat are they?


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#16 SanderO

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 05:01 PM

OK some dumb questions observations. My sense is that the partnering bits are more about the ballerina. He assists her, she relies on him, and almost never the reverse. Ya know the strong man and the weak women contrast. It's almost as if it wants to be a solo for the ballerina but she can't do it all alone so he's there to facilitate.

Since partnering involves a couple dynamic is this mostly driven by the ballerina's style needs etc. or the male? So would the different partners to ballerina A tend to be more like each other such that if male dancer partnered ballerina A, B and C he would do it rather differently.... Or would A, B and C adapt to HIS technique? Let's assume for this thought experiment that all ballerina's are the same size and all partners are the same size? Or maybe it depends completely on the dancers themselves as to the dynamic of the pas de deux?

#17 4mrdncr

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 05:59 PM

So many of the comments on this thread resonate with me.

PAST:
*As a young dancer with my first soloist part, learning to trust my adult partner, who was much larger than I, from a different culture, and speaking a different language.
*Then learning how to time a sissone lift (think white swan pdd) so that I didn't counteract the upward momentum, but worked in tandem so the motion was upwards, the split moved upwards, and the lift itself moved upwards, before finally subsiding back to earth.
*And finally, how to center my weight over my standing leg when doing the standard 'develope en avant fouette into arabesque', (a la Giselle and much of Petipa) so i could pdb back without pulling myself or my partner off balance. He had to know how far apart to stand to maintain tension holding my hand as a counterweight, while i had to think "centered & up", even though I was leaning (or in S.L. eventually falling) backwards.

PRESENT:
Seeing how timing can affect the two 'angel lifts' in Act2 of Giselle:
Done right it is seamless from Giselle's first tendu/ step back and turn into Albrecht, to the top of the lift, so she floats up in one complete move; as if you were drawing a circle in the air starting with Giselle on earth at 7 o'clock, and then drawing a single arc back and up counterclockwise to heaven at noon.
Similarly, in between/before the second lift, when she is lowered and then almost hugged:
A matinee cast's hug looked constricted/scrunched & grounded, the 2nd lift heavy; the evening's cast flowed: from a man gently trying to hug an insubstantial ghost that drifted away, but then turned back to him, to be lifted in a weightless arc that floated skyward. A single movement from beginning to end, and a brilliant demonstration of partnering. In short, if you can break that lift into its component parts, and see the dancers calculating each of those parts, it won't feel right, or look right. It's not an acrobatic lift, but here timing and placement are everything.

I also heard a funny anecdote from an Albrecht trying to convince his Giselle NOT to jump first, but instead "do nothing" and just let him do the lift(ing). After many tries, and a few mistranslations (both were from different countries), she did as he asked, and the rest was history.

FUTURE: I have some really amazing footage and comments from several rehearsals of the pdds in La Bayadere, but you'll have to wait until the doc is released. (Or catch a few clips in the trailer online.)

#18 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 06:12 PM

Sander's post speaks to issues of casting. Companies maintain a first cast, a second cast, and if they're lucky enough to be big enough, a third cast for the evening-long ballets, and even the one-acts. These casts rehearse together, and union time doesn't often permit first-cast man to rehearse with third-cast woman. Usually, if one of the two leads pulls up lame, they'll change the cast, rather than play "musical dancers" with the castings. Sometimes, though, on tour usually, there are circumstances which demand extraordinary measures, and a lot of scrambling for second-cast danseur to dance with first-cast ballerina. Usually, they do get a hasty stage rehearsal, but often, it's go on with the show!

#19 Amy Reusch

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 09:23 PM

One thing that hasn't been said... a good partner can make a not so good ballerina look great and and able to do things she could not on her own... a bad partner can make a good ballerina look awful and cause her to mess up things she normally has no trouble with unpartnered...

Also, with some of the 19th century partnering, I think it was Jacques d'Amboise who told us, that the man was to always look at his partner, but she was not to look at him but rather out toward the czar...

My modern dance friends used to object to ballet's tendency to haul women around like objects.

#20 innopac

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 09:49 PM

Also, with some of the 19th century partnering, I think it was Jacques d'Amboise who told us, that the man was to always look at his partner, but she was not to look at him but rather out toward the czar...


Does that mean it is not historically correct if the ballerina looks at her partner? I like it when they do but maybe that is a modern expectation?

#21 Mel Johnson

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 04:34 AM

It depends on what you're doing. If the work is very presentational, like Don Q, then a lot is projected out to the audience. More intimate works, like the White Swan, there's a lot more one-to-one eye contact. In fact, using the old pas de deux trois form of the work makes this contact more possible and plausible.

#22 Hans

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 09:35 AM

Hauling the woman around? In my pdd classes, the lady was always the center of attention, and heaven help you if you got in her way or made her look bad!

#23 sandik

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 10:05 AM

A teacher of mine used to joke that the resume of a bad partner might read "formerly with Allied Van Lines..."

#24 Mel Johnson

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 12:11 PM

And then there's the unfortunate guy whose partner, for whatever reason, turns to a gallon bowlful of oiled spaghetti right there on the stage, and in his hands. Can you say "hernia"? I thought that you could!

#25 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 04:11 PM

Oh man. That brought back the worst memories of the girl who decided for reasons unknown to anyone to do a contraction while I had her in an overhead press.

After I somehow got her down safely without injuring myself as well, we had a rip-roaring argument. That was not a blessed partnership.

You never know what makes a good partnership - actually I think I do - I'd say most of the time it's a similar internal timing of movements. One dear friend of mine was extremely light but I dreaded partnering her. Whenever I was getting ready to lift her, her weight was somehow going down and it was as if she weighed 250 pounds. I was nervous partnering one of the best girls in the school - she should have been easy to partner, but I was never comfortable with the way she turned. A partnership forced on me by my teacher blossomed into a lifelong friendship - we discovered we had a lot in common as we worked out how to dance together as well; we both improved together. And one girl (Danielle Lehsten, who danced with Bejart before injury cut her career short) who should have been all wrong for me I still remember with the same excitement as getting to take a Lamborghini out for a test drive. She should have been too tall for me to partner but I innately felt comfortable with how she moved.

The biggest trick of all for partnering, at least as a student, is *wanting* to dance with the other person. Once you get there, 50% of the work is done.

#26 4mrdncr

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 09:36 PM

I didn't see a hernias happen, but twice I saw a danseur get injured (back and neck) when the ballerina in the overhead lift, tipped. She was saved, no headfirst crashes, but at his expense. Any male danseurs care to comment how to save oneself (or one's partner) from such disasters?


Just a note: One of the most memorable "partnerships" I saw this past year was when Angel Corella and ABT Ballet Mistress & Repetiteur Susan Jones demonstrated pdds from La Bayadere for his company. She was so graceful, and he was so attentive, that despite the differences in age and technique, and consequently, the lack of pointe shoes, tutus, or lifts, turns, or other major physical displays, it was truly beautiful watching them move together. I kept thinking how transcendent ballet is; to convey so much, despite those missing elements.

#27 Helene

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 11:51 PM

I didn't see a hernias happen, but twice I saw a danseur get injured (back and neck) when the ballerina in the overhead lift, tipped. She was saved, no headfirst crashes, but at his expense. Any male danseurs care to comment how to save oneself (or one's partner) from such disasters?

In pairs figure skating, if the woman goes down in a lift, the man is supposed to break her fall with himself. Is the same true in ballet?

#28 Mel Johnson

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 12:21 AM

That's generally what happens, although I've never heard anybody cite a "rule" about it, apart from the aforementioned, "If you drop her, I'll KILL you!" :)

#29 bart

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 07:28 AM

Here's a question about the fishdives, probably the biggest audience pleaser among partnering tricks. :jawdrop: :toot:

How tricky/dangerous are they? How do dancers (male and female) tend to feel about them and approach doing them?

I watched dozens during the past Nutcracker season and THINK I can visualize and have an understanding of the basic mechanics. Though complicated and difficult to do smoothly and on the beat, they now seem to me to be less daring or risky than the overhead or shoulder lifts that have been discussed above.

#30 Hans

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 09:16 AM

Oh, fish dives are easy. The only problem I've heard about is the final one in the Sleeping Beauty Act III pas de deux, where female dancers have broken ribs because of having to fall into that 'arched' position after being lifted up high. Otherwise, they are a piece of cake. The only thing that annoys me is when the man holds the woman's leg from underneath when it isn't necessary. It's easier but uglier.


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